School Vision Screenings: What Parents Need To Know

Classroom school vision screenings.

If you have a school-aged child, you’re bound to one day receive a letter about school vision screenings. But what exactly does that screening entail? Is it enough to ensure the health and vision of your child’s eyes?

Fortunately for you, I’m here to take the mystery out of school vision screenings and answer the questions that parents typically have about them.

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Classroom school vision screenings
Source: Krissy Venosdale / Flickr

Here are the top 9 questions parents ask about school vision screenings

1) Why is good vision important for students?

Research shows that 80% of learning happens through vision! As a result, having a vision problem can cause major learning difficulties for students.

2) How common are vision problems in children?

It’s estimated that 1 in 5 preschoolers have a vision problem. By the time children enter school, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 children will need glasses or contact lenses.

3) What is the goal of school vision screenings?

School vision screenings are meant to catch the most obvious vision problems such as a severe eye turn or an obvious vision problem. However, vision screenings are not designed to test all of the visual skills that children need to perform to their best potential in school and in life.

4) What typically happens during a school vision screening?

During school vision screenings, your child is asked to cover one eye at a time and read letters on an eye chart located across the room. This test measures a child’s distance vision, which is used to distinguish fine details at far distances. Also, your child may be given a color vision test to determine if they have a color vision loss.

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Ishihara color vision test

5) What is not covered during school vision screenings?

While the number of tests included in school screenings may vary slightly from school to school, all school screenings fall far short of the number of tests needed to effectively test your child’s eye health and vision. In fact, the American Optometric Association estimates that school screenings provide less than 4% of the eye tests needed to help children see.

Previously, I mentioned vision screenings test for the ability to see details at far and the ability to see colors. While these are important visual skills to have, they are only 2 out of 17 visual skills that are necessary for good vision.

Another important piece that is missing from school screenings is the lack of testing for your child’s eye health. As a result, school screenings do not pick up most eye diseases!

6) How effective are school vision screenings at catching vision problems?

According to the American Optometric Association, school vision screenings fail to identify up to 75% of children with vision problems. Adding to this, of the children found to have vision problems through school screenings, 61% never visit an eye doctor to receive the help they need.

7) How can I make sure that my child has good vision?

You now know why vision screenings are NOT good enough for evaluating your child’s vision but, you may be wondering, what is. The answer, a comprehensive eye exam!

This exam is designed to fully test your child’s eye health and visual skills and consists of 12 or more tests that are performed by a licensed eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist). 

8) What happens during a comprehensive eye exam?

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will test the following visual abilities:

  • Eyesight at far and near.
  • Eye alignment.
  • Peripheral vision.
  • Eye tracking.
  • Color vision.
  • Eye teaming.
  • Depth perception (the ability to see in 3D).
  • Eye movement control.
  • And many other important visual abilities.

In addition to evaluating these visual skills, your eye doctor will use a microscope and special equipment to examine the health of your eye in fine detail.

Female getting a yearly comprehensive eye exam

9) How often should a child have a comprehensive eye exam?

According to the American Optometric Association, a child should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Following this, a child should have comprehensive eye exams at 3 years of age, before 1st grade and at least every two years while in school.

If your child is determined to be at risk of developing a vision problem, your eye doctor may recommend more frequent exams than what was previously mentioned.

Do you still have questions? 

Post them in the comments section below! We are happy to answer them to the best of our ability.