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Parents, what's on your child's back-to-school list?  Notebooks? Pens? Pencils? Maybe a backpack? How about an eye examination?

Actually, an eye exam should be at the top of the list, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).  That's because vision is such a large component of the learning process.  Vision problems, whether they're obvious or not, can hinder a child's ability to learn to read, and later, to read to learn.

AOA recommends children have an eye examination at age five, then annually from ages 6 to 19.  It's a detailed but painless process (about 30 to 60 minutes) that allows an optometrist to get a clear picture of the child's eye health and vision development.  Here are the elements AOA says a thorough examination should include:

A comprehensive review of the family's and child's health history.  Your optometrist will also want to know any pertinent facts about the child's birth (whether it was premature or complicated, for example), the child's developmental history (including when the child first sat up, crawled, walked, etc.) and the child's general behavior.  This information can be completed in advance of the examination date.

Though eye disease is rare in children, the optometrist will examine both the interior and exterior of the eyes for signs of eye disease and for signs of general health problems, like diabetes, that may show up in the eyes.

Other tests will check the child's ability to see sharply and clearly at near and far distance, eye coordination and eye muscle function to ensure the eyes are working in sync with one another, the ability to change focus easily from near to far and vice versa, depth perception, and eye-hand-foot coordination.

The optometrist will also test the child for lazy eye, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, crossed-eyes and color vision deficiencies and recommend any appropriate treatment, such as glasses or vision therapy, that the child needs.

- Information provided by the American Optometric Association -

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2001Valley Eye Professionals
12229 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, California 91604
Office: (818) 623-8900
Fax:     (818) 623-0978