By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Back-to-school time is upon Liberal and while many students’ lists include backpacks, rulers or new shoes, there’s one more thing parents need to be sure to add to that back-to-school checklist – a vision screening.
According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, 25 percent of students between kindergarten and sixth grade have some type of visual problem serious enough to impede learning.
“80 percent of all learning comes through the visual pathway so if that pathway is not working well, obviously the student is going to struggle in school,” Ryan Farrar, an optometrist at Jury, Farrar and Associates. “So the importance is to verify that system is working properly and is up and running and ready to acquire information when school starts.”
Refractive problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, are the most common and most identifiable, Farrar said. However, not getting vision screenings could lead to academic underperformance and more serious undetected health problems that can range from diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts and lazy eye.
“If it’s not examined, the kid’s not going to know there’s something wrong — the way they see is the way they see and they have no standard to compare it to someone else,” Farrar said. “So they’re not going to know and they’re going to suffer and the academic problems that follow are the consequences.”
Besides not being able to see clearly, Farrar added, the problems would include reading issues and not being able to acquire information visually and efficiently.
“These would be the kids who would struggle the most in school who work hard but still can’t seem to get ahead, they can’t get good grades or they work and still underperform on tests,” Farrar said.
With back-to-school time so close and with all of the associated retail deals, Farrar said it’s right about that time when the office sees most of its student patients.
It’s also not just local optometrists who are wanting to make sure parents get their students’ needed vision screenings – teachers in classrooms are also encouraged to be getting involved.
“We also find teachers, aside from parents, are best at identifying vision problems in the classroom because they see the kids on a day-to-day basis,” Farrar explained. “So we’ve developed a checklist of visual symptoms so when teachers observe these on a repeated basis, they make a good case the student has a vision problem and needs an exam.”
Some of the factors teachers can look out for in their students include if the student sustains headaches, burning eyes, double vision or if the student loses their place often, or re-reads or skips lines in a reading exercise.
“You’ve got your back-to-school list of things you need like your backpacks and books and school supplies, but you have to check your eyes too,” Farrar said. “That’s a big component.”