The Missouri Children’s Vision Bill

When it comes to children’s vision, it is important to correct any disorders as early as possible in order to prevent long-lasting consequences.  We don’t want our kids to be at a disadvantage as they begin to learn colors, numbers, and letters and as they learn to navigate their complex environments.

Just as it is important for kids to receive well baby and pediatric health examinations and immunizations, it is equally important for them to have screenings to ensure age-appropriate visual functioning.

Two programs aimed at early detection of vision impairments are InfantSEE and the Missouri Children’s Vision Bill.

InfantSEE is a public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, member optometrists such as myself and Dr. Julie Storer at Family Eyewear Gallery provide comprehensive eye assessments during your baby’s first year of life as a no cost public health service.

If you have not already done so, make it a New Year’s resolution to schedule your baby’s InfantSEE examination as soon as possible.

For older children, the Missouri Legislature has recently passed Senate Bill 16, The Missouri Children’s Vision Bill, in an effort to ensure that children’s vision disorders are found and addressed before their school performance is affected.

The Bill requires that beginning July 1, 2008, every child enrolling in kindergarten or first grade in a public elementary school must receive one comprehensive vision examination performed by a state licensed optometrist or physician and proof of the examination be submitted to the school by January 1 of the year of enrollment.

All public school districts will also conduct eye screenings for students before the completion of first grade and again before the completion of third grade. If your child fails the screening, a notice of the failure will be sent so that you may follow up with a comprehensive examination.

You must then submit results of the examination, including proof of examination, examination results, cost, the examiner’s qualifications, and method of payment.  The comprehensive examination must include at least the following components:  a patient history; distance acuity—20/20, 20/40, etc.; external and internal examination of eye health; and refraction—determination of the final eyeglass or contact lens prescription.

While this is a good start to a much needed service, in my opinion, the exam components are not comprehensive.  Even though a child may see well at distance, he or she may have considerable difficulty with near vision.  Near vision is often untested and children may pass such screenings even though their vision is not optimal.

Other issues such as eye alignment, focusing ability, color vision, depth perception, and field of vision are often untested at screenings because experience and skill are required to obtain accurate results.  It is important that these issues are addressed by an optometrist who is qualified to recognize such disorders and who is able to suggest ways to correct these issues.  Correction may involve eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, or even vision therapy.

If the vision screening is only performed binocularly (using both eyes at the same time), the child may be using one eye while the other one is ignored.  This can lead to a condition called “amblyopia”, commonly called lazy eye.  Children with a lazy eye also have impaired depth perception that will cause them difficulty with coordination in sports and other activities.

Also, please note that if your child attends a private or parochial school, such screenings are not required.  That means it is up to you to bring in your child for a comprehensive examination.  The timeline to do so as suggested by the State—before 1st and 3rd grade—is one that I feel is appropriate.

Because vision has such a great impact on learning, I feel that InfantSEE and comprehensive pediatric eye examinations are as vital as vaccinations for infants and children.  At Family Eyewear Gallery, we provide both of these types of exams in addition to adult examinations.  Please contact us if your child’s vision has not been fully evaluated.  If we cannot accommodate you, we will gladly help you find appropriate resources so that your child does not suffer the adverse consequences of poor vision.