With the demands of daily family life, vision is an area of routine healthcare that’s all too often overlooked, especially for young children. As National Children’s Eye Health Month (24 October – 23 November) gets underway, Specsavers stores in Nottinghamshire are highlighting the importance of eye tests for children as part of routine health checks.

Vision for learning

Good vision is an essential part of every school-age child’s success. Around 80% of everything children learn is through their vision, so making sure they have healthy eyesight can have a big impact on their learning. And it’s not just about classroom learning – vision problems can have a huge effect on their personality and adjustment in school, not to mention their ability and enjoyment of recreation and sporting activities.

It’s important that vision problems are spotted early. As children grow, their eyes change and sometimes vision problems can gradually appear. Simon Dunn, store director at Specsavers Nottingham, says: ‘A child’s eyesight will continue to develop right up to the age of eight and a number of eyecare issues can be corrected by an optician if detected before this time.’

Spotting the signs

Sight problems in children can sometimes be misdiagnosed as learning or attention-based problems. ‘We have seen some cases where children have been misdiagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD or learning difficulties when in fact the child simply needs glasses,’ explains Simon.

Children rarely complain about their sight, but there are some clear behavioural signs that could signal an underlying vision problem. These include:

  • Sitting too close to the TV or holding books too close to their face
  • Squinting or tilting their head to see better
  • Blinking a lot or rubbing their eyes excessively
  • Complaining of headaches or sore eyes
  • Falling behind in school unexpectedly
  • One eye turning either inwards or outwards

A month of awareness

Specsavers has launched the awareness month following its joint research with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, which also revealed that despite children’s eye tests being free with an NHS voucher, around 20% of school age children still have an undiagnosed vision problem.

Specsavers and RNIB’s State of the Nation’s Eye Health report, which was based on a YouGov poll of 100,000 respondents of which 2,000 were parents of children aged three to 16, also found that 27 per cent of parents of children aged three to 16 said their children had never had an eye test.

To support National Children’s Eye Health month, participating Specsavers stores across Nottinghamshire will be fundraising for local children’s eye health hospitals and charity partner RNIB through its Wear Dots, To Raise Lots initiative.

Investing in eyecare

SchoolScreener EZ® is also being offered free to schools across Nottinghamshire though support from Specsavers. The innovative SchoolScreener EZ® software has been developed by scientists at City University London.

Through funding by Specsavers and the Screening for Schools campaign, the software, designed to be operated by teachers, school staff or volunteers, is being made available at no cost to all primary and secondary schools in the Nottinghamshire area.

Easy detection

The kit includes software which is accessed from any computer or tablet device, and test glasses worn by the child. Simply operated without any training required, it can be used to detect the most common eye problems among children including short-sightedness (myopia), lazy eye (amblyopia), squint (strabismus) and astigmatism, allowing them to be corrected early on.  A test of colour vision is also included.

Following the test, the software automatically generates reports for parents or guardians to help them make informed decisions about their child’s eyes.

The software, created by Thomson Screening, is currently being used by more than 1,700 schools. It also has 35 different language options. Schools can also register to receive their free kit at screeningforschools.com.

Ongoing eyecare

Eyecare is easy and convenient at Specsavers stores across Nottinghamshire for both children and adults. Specsavers recommends that everyone has their eyes tested every two years as part of their routine healthcare. Eye tests are not just to check prescriptions; they are also an opportunity for optometrists to monitor ongoing changes in your eyes and detect any problems early.

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