Here’s A Back-To-School Task You May Not Be Thinking About — But Should Be

An eye exam can tell you so much more than just how well your child sees.

by BDG Studios

School’s out for summer! For our kids, that means catching up on all their favorite shows, spending long, lazy days playing in the sunshine, splashing with their besties at afternoon pool parties, and enjoying a little wiggle room when it comes to their bedtime.

For parents, summer isn’t all fun and games. Sure, we enjoy the time with our kiddos, and if we’re lucky we get to catch a few (sunscreened) rays poolside, but every parent knows there are a zillion things to do to get our families ready for the upcoming school year, and we’ve got to be on top of that to-do list pretty much from the time the last bell rings.

While you’re looking up supply lists, signing up for clubs, scheduling physicals and dental visits, and measuring little feet for school shoes, there’s one more task you should add to your list.

Eye exams.

Every member of your family older than 6 months needs one once a year. And summer is the perfect time to get it on the calendar.

VSP network doctor Jennifer Wademan, OD sat down with Scary Mommy to talk vision exams and give us some expert insight into the reasons why we need to get our kiddos in the eye doctor’s chair annually. Here’s what Dr. Wademan had to say:

The vision screening your child gets at school is not a substitute for a real eye exam.

Look, we stan a school nurse queen, but a true vision exam is so much more than the quick screening that the school nurse can provide between juggling the lice outbreak in kindergarten and the pink eye sweeping through the fifth-grade.

“Not all eye conditions have symptoms,” Dr. Wademan tells Scary Mommy. “While some eye conditions are benign, others can be detrimental to the child’s vision in the future. Establishing care and a baseline of a child’s eye health helps detect and monitor any changes in eye health over time. It also creates healthy habits for our kids.”

Eye exams are not meant solely to determine whether your child needs glasses, and they can’t be performed by a school nurse or even your regular pediatrician. A proper exam by an eye health professional can tell you much more than how well your child can see the chalkboard.

Your kid can’t run this ship — they might not even realize they need to see an eye doctor.

Problems with vision can be challenging for a child to properly articulate. I mean, have you heard a six-year-old tell a story lately? It’s like an auditory pretzel. We probably shouldn’t rely on their communication skills just yet to let us know if they need a little vision correction.

“Younger kids often don’t know what ‘clear’ versus ‘blurry’ means,” Dr. Wademan explains. “They just see what they see without any comparison of whether it is normal or not.” An eye exam is the most reliable way to find out what your child is really seeing.

There are lots of common misconceptions surrounding eye health and the need for eye exams for children.

Dr. Wademan keeps a mental list of eye and vision health misconceptions that’s about a mile long.

“There are so many — Kids only need an exam if they have trouble seeing far away. Eye exams are not necessary for younger kids. If parents are not nearsighted, farsighted and/or have astigmatism then their kids won't be either. They will ‘grow out of it’,” she lists.

Every one of these assumptions is false. Another misconception? That eye exams are only necessary every five years or so.

The single most important thing you can do to ensure your child’s eyes and vision are healthy is to schedule yearly eye exams.

“Just as we plan on dental appointments on a routine basis, do the same with eye exams,” Dr. Wademan says. “In my office, we try to do as much of the remembering as possible by pre-appointing our patients. That way you have one less appointment to schedule. Plus, it helps keep you on track with utilizing vision benefits and all the perks of vision insurance.”

You’ve got a lot on your summer to-do list, but your child’s eye health is too important to ignore. While you’re handling all of the crucial back-to-school tasks, get an eye exam on the calendar for every member of your family. Because, as Dr. Wademan told us, the most important benefit of an annual eye exam is that you keep your family’s eyes healthy and happy.