August is National Children’s Vision and Learning Month. For many of us, August is also back-to-school time. This means new clothes, school supplies, and a physical prior to the start of sports seasons. Hopefully, part of the wellness exam included a vision screening. I was one of those kids who entered that strange stage of eye-glass wearing in third grade. Little did I know that a yearly eye exam should have been part of my normal yearly check-up. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children should receive additional eye exams at 3 years of age, and just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade at about age 5 or 6. Additionally, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. This came as news to me as a communicator in a sector of health care new to me, ophthalmology.
I had always been under the impression that unless my pediatrician saw something troublesome during my children’s annual exam there was no reason to have them seen by an ophthalmologist. It’s a common myth that Joseph Brownstein of ABC News Medical Unit pointed out in an article titled, Doctors Explain the Truth Behind 11 Popular Eye Myths. One myth Brownstein shined light on was, “It’s O.K. to skip by child’s first eye exam as long as they don’t seem to have any problems with their sight.” It’s simply not true. School screenings are inadequate, although there may not be consensus on just when the first exam should happen, most medical professionals agree that it should be fairly early on in life.
Luckily, I can use what I have learned and meet some of the benchmarks for my second and third children. My first son got his glasses last year, at the start of third grade after it seemed that he had struggled through the summer playing pitching machine baseball. My second son is just entering first grade, and although I missed those checkpoints at six months and three years, hopefully I’ll be more focused on his sight before this year begins. My daughter is just three, so, like all parents, I’m hoping to “almost” get it right with this one!
What’s even better is that my job is giving me the opportunity to have conversations with my children about overall health. They are interested to know what mommy does at work all day. It’s interesting how your children can become your company’s biggest promoter when they declare to the world that they will have their next eye exam at mommy’s office!