**FILE** Theodore Smith, 13, receives an eye exam from Keith Smithson, O.D., at the VSP Global Eyes of Hope mobile eye care clinic. (WI photo)
**FILE** Theodore Smith, 13, receives an eye exam from Keith Smithson, O.D., at the VSP Global Eyes of Hope mobile eye care clinic. (WI File Photo/E Watson/EDI Photo)

It’s been a long time but I can clearly remember the difficulty I once face seeing and reading the blackboard which, almost magically, became a thing of the past after having my eyes examined and getting my first pair of glasses. For me, it would be as if a whole new world had suddenly appeared right before my very eyes.

And while the times may have changed, untold thousands of school-age children face the similar challenge of needing corrective lenses or medical enhancements to improve their eyesight.

With many states beginning the school year earlier, August has since become the new September.

And with school supply shopping and purchasing those highly-requested back-to-school clothing items, now’s the perfect time to make comprehensive eye exam appointments for your children.

Fittingly, August has recently been designated as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. A good rule of thumb is to have your children’s eyes examined during well-child visits, beginning around age three.

Obviously, children who see better can read better and thus do better in their daily classwork.

Yearly eye examinations are tantamount to success in school and your child’s eye doctor can help detect refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

But other diseases can also be detected with a comprehensive eye examination including: amblyopia (lazy eye); strabismus (crossed eyes); ptosis (drooping of the eyelid); and color deficiency (color blindness). If parents or physicians suspect a child may have a vision problem, it’s recommended that you make an appointment with a local ophthalmologist for further testing.

In my elementary school days, I recall my mother taking me to the eye doctor after I began to continually squint and rub my eyes — the only way I knew to improve my poor eyesight.

However, there are some specific warning signs that may indicate that your child has a vision problem which include: wandering or crossed eyes; a family history of childhood vision problems; disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects; squinting or turning the head in an unusual manner while watching television.

It’s important to keep children’s eyes safe — another means of maintaining healthy vision. Recent statistics indicate that eye injuries serve as the leading cause of vision loss in children with about 42,000 sports-related eye injuries every year in the U.S. and children suffering most of these injuries.

You can prevent your child from being one of over 12 million children in the U.S. who suffer from vision impairment by remembering a few basic rules of safety:

All children should wear protective eyewear while participating in sports or recreational.

Purchase age-appropriate toys for your children and avoid toys with sharp or protruding parts.

School bells are ringing — be proactive in helping your children enjoy a successful school year by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam and taking safety measures to ensure their eyes are free from injury.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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