Go ahead, Call me four eyes. Or say I have Coke-bottle specs. I don’t mind. For the first nine years of my life I couldn’t see the individual leaves dangling high above in tree branches. I was only able to find my mom in a crowd by remembering what color clothes she was wearing. My father would say I always had my nose in a book – literally – because otherwise I couldn’t see the words or pictures.
Mrs. Daly, an astute teacher, finally untied my blindfold when she noticed some of my symptoms, like squinting at the board and holding materials close to my eyes, and recommended my parents take me to an eye doctor. Vision problems were something my mom, who referred to herself as “eagle-eyed Annie,” never thought possible in her family populated with sharp eyed folks with nary a pair of glasses perched on their noses.
Luckily, school-aged children in Pennsylvania get yearly vision screenings. But what if you’re the parent of a baby and want her checked sooner? You can check out InfantSEE®, a national public health program, which according to their website, was “designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life.” The site (www.infantsee.org) lists Pennsylvania optometrists who will provide comprehensive eye and vision assessments for babies six months to one year regardless of family income or access to insurance coverage.
According to Ruthie Asmus, Prevention for Blindness Coordinator, at Center for Vision Loss, children need to see well to learn well, but a child who is not seeing well generally does not realize it. That's why it important to have vision screenings done before your child enters elementary school.
Center for Vision Loss, a non-profit agency, serving the residents of Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe Counties, recommends that if you observe any of these symptoms in your child make an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as possible:
1. Tends to rub his eyes
2. Complains of headaches or dizziness
3. Shuts or covers one eye while reading
4. Turns or tilts his head to use one eye only
5. Squints, frowns or blinks more than usual
6. Uses a finger to maintain his place while reading
7. Loses his place while reading
8. Omits or confuses small words while reading
9. Holds reading materials close to his eyes
10. Performs below potential
11. Becomes irritable when doing close work or avoids close work
12. Stumbles over small objects when walking or playing
The Center for Vision Loss has a portable autorefractor, a machine that allows Ruthie and her colleagues to bring their vision screening and educational program into child care centers and preschools free of charge. The educational program was designed specifically to accompany vision screenings, and features The Eye Book by Dr. Seuss, about a large brown rabbit who becomes the Center for Vision Loss C. Well Bunny. A rabbit hand puppet is used to represent C. Well Bunny as he shares his six basic eye safety and eye care tips in an entertaining and easy-to-understand format. According to Center for Vision Loss “C. Well Bunny is the perfect character to make youngsters aware of the importance of their eyes and introduces vision screenings in a non-threatening way.” Child care center directors and early childhood education teachers can contact Ruthie at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.