As Scottish students return to school after the half term break, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is urging parents to prepare their children for the classroom by booking an eye examination this autumn.
Public perception surveys previously found that parents in Scotland place less importance on children’s eye examinations than those in Northern Ireland or Wales . Yet recent data published in the British Medical Journal shows that children who have reduced vision when they start school have significantly reduced literacy development, even when other factors – such as cognitive skills and background – are taken into account.
Optometrist Henry Leonard, Clinical and Regulatory Officer at the AOP, commented that "a whole range of things can be affected by poor vision, including schooling and social development. Yet many children will not know if they have a vision problem and may believe the way they see is perfectly normal. While parents should look out for signs, in some cases no symptoms will be apparent so regular eye examinations are essential."
He added "It is estimated one million children in the UK have an undiagnosed vision problem. When we look at how this can negatively affect a child's development, it's a really worrying figure. It's particularly important to detect and correct these problems during early childhood, to ensure that vision develops normally, as it can be difficult or impossible to correct once a child reaches the age of eight or nine. Parents are often quite shocked to realise their child has been struggling with schoolwork due to a visual problem, which can often be corrected with a simple pair of spectacles. It's very rewarding to see a child who was previously struggling, starting to enjoy reading and writing for the first time."
Research has shown that an estimated 9% of Scottish pupils have additional support needs due to sight problems . The AOP recommends that children are taken for an eye examination around the age of three and then at least every two years, or as advised by your optometrist, so any vision problems can be treated early. There are many tests that an optometrist can carry out which are designed to engage children from a very young age or need no response to make the test easier for the child.
Children in Scotland, under the age of 16, are entitled to a free eye examination. An optical voucher may also be available, which entitles parents or carers help towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses, if required.
What to expect at your child's eye examination
- At the beginning of the appointment your optometrist will ask about your family history, your child’s health generally and if you have any concerns about their sight. If your child is old enough the optometrist will also speak to them about their vision
- Several tests will be carried out in the test room to check your child's eyes are healthy. These can include shinning a light into the child's eyes, asking them to follow an object with their eyes and asking them to identify images, words or letters whilst looking through different lenses. The optometrist may also include a stereopsis test to check how your child's eyes are working together and a colour vision test to detect colour deficiencies
- The examination will normally take around 30 minutes and you can stay with your child at all times
- Your optometrist will then let you know if your child would benefit from glasses, or any treatments, and advise when to return for their next examination
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Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists and other optical professionals in the UK. We support our community of more than 16,500 members to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good.
For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk
Optometry Today (OT) has a readership of 15,000 members and subscribers. OT was named as the ‘Best Professional Association or Royal College magazine’ at the MemCom 2016 Awards. Organised by MemCom – the networking organisation for membership marketing professionals – the awards recognise and celebrate excellence within the membership sector. The OT website offers subscribers exclusive access to over 65 CET exams per year, including bi-monthly CET video content.
For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk/ot