Students and parents preparing to go back to school should add one more item to their checklists: eye exams. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Notebooks, calculators, pencils and cute new outfits are staples of most back-to-school lists, but one item that's often overlooked are eye exams.
"Now in school, they ask you so many supplies for the children. It's just like, I feel like a hardship for the parents," says Gloria Ruiz, whose 9-year-old daughter Kiana started having trouble during the last school year. It turned out she needed glasses.
"Even though she was not sitting too far from the blackboard, she was still unable to see certain things very clear," Ruiz says. "And the teacher thought that she was making excuses, that she was being lazy, that she didn't want to do her work."
Ruiz says Kiana would often complain of headaches. Optometrist Widad Valme with Helen Keller International's ChildSight program says headaches can be a result of a child constantly straining to see.
"They're reading a lot, they're using the computer and they're using the games," Valme says.
Valme tells parents to watch out for squinting, and says a good way to monitor your child's eye health is observing how closely they sit to the TV.
"You tell the child to move back, and you slowly watch them," Valme says. "If they keep moving closer to the TV, it means that, well, they probably cannot see it."
Other signs of vision problems include disinterest in reading and frequent rubbing of the eyes.
Kiana received a free eye exam from ChildSight during an in-school screening and got a pair of prescription glasses shortly after.
"It helped a lot," she says. "Now I can see better."
A survey of teachers by Helen Keller International found an 83 percent rate of improvement in class participation among students who received eye glasses through the program.
"If you cannot see the board, you can't read, you can't write down the information that you need off the board," says Tonya Daniels of the ChildSight program. "We've found that once a student receives a simple pair of eyeglasses, they start to, their behavior starts to change, and they actually start to participate in class."
Valme recommends that children and teens get their eyes checked out once a year.
For more information about ChildSight, visit www.hki.org/working-worldwide/united-states/new-york.