Sight is something we all take for granted, so it’s easy to forget those all important check-ups. Protect your child’s sight by keeping eye tests on your to-do list…
Sitting in line at school, waiting to read a load of random letters on the wall probably isn’t the fondest of childhood memories. Looking back it’s easy to see the importance of school eye tests. Blind Children UK is calling for parents to ensure their children’s eyes are tested within the first year of school. A recent survey has shown that…
- Approximately two million parents have never taken their child to the optician (a quarter of all parents).
- This rises to over four in 10 (43%) among those with children under five.
- Vision screening is recommended to take place in schools for children aged four to five, but is not happening in two thirds of areas in England.
- 40% of parents with children under five who were surveyed wrongly assume eye tests are happening at schools or nursery.
- More than one in ten parents (13%) aren’t aware that eye examinations are free for under 16s.
“We are in a worrying situation where children are not getting their eyes tested either in school or at an opticians with their parents” said Jayne George, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Blind Children UK. “There are a number of eye conditions that are common among young children – some of which can lead to sight loss if not caught early – and these can be detected in a thorough eye examination. Early detection and intervention can make the world of difference, which is why we are calling for parents to get their children’s eyes tested within the first year of school.”
Early eye tests can pick up problems that can be addressed, conditions such as amblyopia. Amblyopia can be a very mild problem but has the potential to become more serious if left untreated or if sight in the other eye is lost or damaged. The findings suggest that eye health is not currently a top priority for parents. Of those surveyed, more than one in five (22%) who have taken their child for an eye examination waited until their child was aged between seven and 13, while 12% left it until their child was eight. When asked why they had not taken their children to get their eyes examined, more than a third (35%) of parents admitted that their child’s eyesight had always seemed fine so they weren’t concerned about it.
A quarter of parents surveyed (25%) also didn’t think their child would be able to do the test as they are too young to read, and almost half (49%) said that no one had advised them when to take their child for a test. Approximately one in five parents (22%) did not know that an eye examination tests the health of the eye not just their eye sight and 13% did not know that these eye examinations were free for all children under the age of 16.
“When a child is born, they have two eye tests as standard – one 72 hours after birth and another between six and eight weeks. Both involve a simple test where the child tries to follow the health visitor’s torchlight. Although this will measure the child’s ability to detect light, it will not be able to ascertain whether the child’s eyes are healthy and developing correctly,” added Jayne George. “Growing up with a vision impairment can severely impact a child’s confidence and development. Early diagnosis can help a child and their family to find appropriate support and in some cases, if caught early enough, can prevent an eye condition from developing enough to impact a child’s sight. If your child hasn’t had a vision screening test at school, conducted by an eye health professional, we advise that you take them to the local optician. If you haven’t taken your child for an eye test because they are unable to recognise letters you needn’t worry, as the test can be adapted to suit the age and needs of the child.”
Blind Children UK is a leading charity for children and young people with sight loss.