VSP released a new study.
(Press Release) RANCHO CORDOVA, CA — As much as 80 percent of learning a child does is visual, with children spending most of the school day reading, looking at a blackboard and using laptops and tablets. However, come back-to-school season, parents overlook one of the most critical learning tools – their child’s eyes. Half (50.1 percent) of US parents do not bring their school-age children for a back-to-school eye exam, according to a VSP Vision Care and YouGov survey, “How Parents ‘See’ Eye Health.”
Although three in four respondents (76 percent) said sight is the most important sense, findings from the survey of 1,000 U.S. parents revealed their attitudes don’t match their actions for themselves and their kids. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), kids should have a first comprehensive vison assessment at six months to ensure the eyes are working together and to detect any vision problems early; followed by a comprehensive eye exam at 3 years old, five years old, and annually throughout the school years. However, one in five parents (21 percent) did not take their kids to the eye doctor for the first time until they were school age (at least five years old). Additionally, 13 percent have never taken their child(ren) to the eye doctor.
“It may seem surprising, but kids who can’t read or even speak yet can still have a comprehensive eye exam. The connection between eyes and the brain starts early. As an optometrist and a mom of school-age children myself, I encourage parents to prioritize back-to-school eye exams, the same way you wouldn’t miss a dentist or pediatrician visit,” said Dr. Mary Anne Murphy, OD, owner and practitioner of Front Range Eye Associates in Denver and board member at VSP Global. “Kids don’t know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to eye health. When vision problems aren’t identified early, kids will be at a disadvantage before they even start kindergarten.”
The survey uncovered other key barriers that prevent parents from getting an annual eye exam for their children.
Parents incorrectly assume school or pediatric vision screenings are the same as a comprehensive eye exam.
More than one-third (37 percent) of moms said they skipped eye exams because their kids already have their eyes checked in school. Vision screenings only test for distance vision and visual sharpness, and can miss up to 80 percent of vision problems, including serious conditions like amblyopia (lazy eye), which can lead to vision loss if not treated. A child can easily pass a vision screening, but not be able to see well enough to read a book. During a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists look at things a school vision screening will not, such as family medical history, the overall health of the eyes, how the eyes work together, and their ability to focus. Additionally, an annual eye exam can improve more than just eyesight. Optometrists can detect other health problems including diabetes and hypertension.
Parents are delaying eye exams – and vision insurance – until kids start school.
One in four parents surveyed didn’t take their children to the eye doctor until they were at least 5 years old, and vision insurance may have something to do with it. For 23 percent of moms surveyed, obtaining vision insurance is the biggest barrier to taking their kids for an eye exam. However, 30 percent said having vision insurance would motivate them to change that. Only 11 percent of kids join the family’s vision insurance plan at birth, according to VSP claims data. Even though many common vision problems are detectable from infancy, most parents start using their vision benefits for their kids when they reach school age. VSP findings show 45 percent of kids have had an eye exam above the age of 6, compared to 10 percent for those between ages zero and 5. This is a missed opportunity given that 90 percent of brain development occurs between birth and 5 years old. Long before most kids step foot into a classroom, the foundation is being laid for a lifetime of learning, and without proper vision, that foundation is weaker than it should be.
They’re more apt to take kids to the eye doctor when something is wrong, instead of going proactively.
Among parents who do not bring their children to the eye doctor annually, 72 percent of moms and 48 percent of dads said they would be motivated to do so if their child complains of discomfort or changes in vision. Just like the rest of the body, a child’s eyesight can change in just a year – in some cases it can mean the difference between needing glasses or not. Yearly eye exams can help parents and their children stay on top of vision and prescription changes.