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Are Your Kids Visually Ready?

Earlier this summer one of the neighbor kids was running through our house to get through to our backyard where the other kids were playing.  He is  a big, solid first grader to be.  He rounded the corner of our kitchen and made a beeline for the sliding patio door that leads to the deck.  Then “BOOM” he slammed right into the screen, blasting it off the track and sending it flying out onto the deck.  It was hilarious! If I’d had a video camera rolling I’d be $10,000 richer because it was truly funnier than most things I’ve seen on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

This same kid a few months later was brought to my office by his mom after struggling on a simple vision test at his pediatrician’s office.  Quite frankly I’m not sure why I didn’t suggest an eye exam after he remodeled my screen door!  Sure enough, he has a significant amount of farsightedness that needed correction and will make reading and all near activities a LOT easier on his eyes.

It is Nebraska state law that all kindergartners (and other age kids entering school in Nebraska for the first time) need to have a comprehensive eye exam within six months of starting school.  

Which leads me to the question “Why wasn’t this young boy’s visual problem caught before Kindergarten?”  The answer is that the law has a few loop holes.  One is that ANY medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or optometrist can perform the eye exam as long as they perform all the testing outlined in the law.  I will tell you that 99.9% of pediatricians offices do not have the equipment, time, or expertise to perform all the tests that are required by the law.  In fact most of them just have the child read a old, yellowed eye chart that is taped up on the wall in the hallway.  A few have screening machines that do a little better job (the kid in this story failed one of those the second time he took it) but most do not.   The fact is many kids will be able to pass a rudimentary screening while still having very significant vision problems.  Case in point, the young boy in this story did well enough on the screening before kindergarten to squeak through!  (Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely respect and admire the job our kids’ pediatrician does.  But they just aren’t eye experts.)

The second loop hole is that the law allows parents to “opt out” of the eye examination.  When this law was enacted our state legislators thought it wise to give parents the final option of whether to do the exam or not.  I get that – I don’t really want the government telling me I have to do anymore than they already do. But when you consider the amount of learning that comes through visual (especially NEAR visual) tasks that only underscores, bolds, and italicizes the need to make sure your kids are visually ready to learn by getting their eyes examined by an eye specialist!

School starts next week – are your kids visually ready?

 

 

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