It can make or break a school year

Parents, you want your child to start the new school year out successfully, but a big problem in the classroom could be fixed with a simple eye exam!

Making a house call this week is Dr. Edward Stewart with Stewart Family Eye Care in Traverse City.

"Experts say that over 80% of what a child learns in school is presented visually," said Dr. Stewart. "According to Prevent Blindness America, one in four school-age children have vision problems that, if left untreated, can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school."

Is an eye exam different than a vision screening done through school?

"A vision screening is only one portion of an eye exam," said Dr. Stewart. "These screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem, but not take the place of a visit to an eye care practitioner. A full examination will look at many parts of the eye and the eyes' overall health."

Some signs Dr. Stewart said show there may be a problem with a child's vision include:

Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close

Losing their place while reading, or using a finger to guide his eyes when reading

Squinting or tilting the head to see better

Frequent eye rubbing

Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing

Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better

Avoiding activities which require near vision, such as reading or homework, or distance vision, such as participating in sports or other recreational activities

Complaining of headaches or tired eyes

Avoiding using a computer, because it "hurts his eyes"

Receiving lower grades than usual

Some common vision problems Dr. Stewart said occur in school-aged children include narsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, lazy eye, amblyopia, strabismus, focusing of the eyes, and color vision.

How often should a child go to the eye doctor?

"Children should have an eye exam by no later than 6 months old, then again by age 3, and just before starting school," said Dr. Stewart. "School-age children need an exam every two years after that if they do not have any visual problems, but if your child requires eyeglasses or contact lenses, schedule visits every 12 months."

Why is it important to go so often?

"Frequent eye exams are important because during the school years your child's eyeglasses prescription can change frequently," said Dr. Stewart.

Dr. Stewart wants to remind everyone that appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school. A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance.

For more tips from Dr. Stewart, click the video above. For more information on Stewart Eye Care, click HERE or call 231-947-2020.