Eyeing trouble


Not all signs are obvious

Squinting at the blackboard. Complaining of headaches. Rubbing watery eyes.

All are indications your child may be having vision problems, according to Prevent Blindness America, the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization. Some signs of possible eye trouble are obvious to parents--crossed eyes, crusty and swollen eyelids, recurring eye infections. Others, however, are more subtle. Some kids will tilt their heads as they attempt to get an item in focus. Or their eyes will become irritated by up-close work. They may even be suffering from headaches caused by eye strain.

Schaumburg-based Prevent Blindness America, which screens pre-school and school-age children for vision problems, screened 1.5 million children, including 1,322 in the Chicago area, in 2001. More than 10 percent of them were referred to eye doctors for possible eye trouble.

But many vision problems go undetected. More than 80 percent of preschool age children never have their eyes examined, despite the recommendation that professional eye examinations should be done shortly after birth, at 6 months, at about 4 years and then, periodically throughout the school years. Sears Optical, The Vision Council of America and the National Association of Child Care Professionals have joined together to educate parents and preschool teachers about the importance of proper vision in young children.

"Studies show a direct link between poor vision and learning disabilities, delinquency, illiteracy and social and emotional problems,"says Sherry Workman, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Professionals.

Prevent Blindness America offers free screenings throughout the Chicago area and provides financial aid to families who can't afford to buy glasses for their children www.preventblindness.org, (888) 331-2020. Sears Optical offers free Kids' Vision Kits at 22 Chicago area Sears outlets. More information is available at www.searsoptical.com/peek.

-- Cindy Richards

Kids Eat Chicago

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