SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - August is Children's Eye Health and Safety month. While a simple vision test is good, experts say it's not enough to catch all problems early while they can be treated quickly.
It is estimated that 80 percent of learning for a child is done through their eyes. So if something is wrong with their vision, they will likely have trouble in school. That's why full eye exams are so important.
Ninth grader Keaira Carr recently started back to school, and she quickly noticed she was having problems.
"At school, it started getting hard for me to see the board and I had to move around a lot and it was distracting to everyone," said Keaira.
A quick eye exam at Benefield Eye Care in Gulfport is getting her back on track. It turns out Keaira is near sighted. New prescription eyeglasses should make a world of difference.
"It's going to be easier for me to read the board, and I'll get my work done faster."
While Keaira knew she had a problem, many other kids don't know they have a problem. Because of that, Optometrist Dr. Hedy Walker, OD, says some children often fall through the cracks.
"I have young adults come in with vision problems that probably needed glasses in elementary school," said Walker.
Walker says that's why parents need to be aware of symptoms. A lot of those symptoms may not be obvious.
"They may have trouble focusing. Sometimes we see them squinting, leaning into their work, heavy blinking, rubbing their eyes, even headaches. All can be an indication that there's an ocular or a vision problem."
One mother noticed her son was blinking a lot. Then, his baseball coach had a concern. Parrish, 7, said it came up while his coach was pitching to him.
"He saw that my eyes were rolling. He told me about it and I said, 'My eyes are rolling? I did not know that,'" said Parrish.
Walker said it's always better to be safe than sorry. She says not picking up on vision problems early not only leads to trouble in the classroom, but can also lead to long term psychological problems.
"Low self-esteem. I believe they often think they may not be as smart as their counterparts, when in fact, it's their vision causing the problems."
A full exam with Walker showed that Parrish needed prescription reading glasses. It was a perfect example of someone not realizing they have a problem. Walker said there are many more kids out there who could use some help.
"We think maybe one out of four school children may need help."
Ruling out any problems early in the game keeps kids on track and gives parents peace of mind.
In addition to recognizing and staying on top of potential symptoms, Walker says kids should have a full eye exam before starting kindergarten.