Clear Vision for New York’s Future

This post was written by ChildSight® New York Program Manager Tonya Daniels.

Today is World Sight Day, a global day of awareness about the importance of eye health. It also serves as a great reminder to have your child’s eyes checked.

One NYC student on the path to clear vision at a recent ChildSight® screening. Photo: c. HKI

Did you know that up to 80% of what your child learns is through their eyes? One of the most common – and preventable – obstacles to academic success is unclear vision. The fact is if your child can’t see the writing on the board or the text in a book, it can mean the difference between doing well in school this year and failing.

It’s a familiar scene: a student suddenly starts to fall behind or lose interest in subjects they once loved. They miss homework assignments, seem distracted and act up in class. Maybe they no longer want to play sports after school with their friends. Parents and teachers are left mystified.

A simple reason could be that they can’t see clearly. It’s not unusual: “refractive errors” – most commonly nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism – affect about 25% of all children in the US. They tend to develop between the ages of 10 and 15, but can also appear much earlier. So in the New York City public school system, that’s about 144,000 kids! For most, a properly prescribed pair of eyeglasses is all they need to correct the problem. That is, if the problem is detected.

I’ve been a Program Manager for ChildSight® New York, a program of Helen Keller International, for more than 15 years. I’ve visited hundreds of schools in all five boroughs and have seen too many children not meeting their full potential in school because they are living with correctable vision problems. While some are embarrassed to admit they can see clearly, I’ve also met an alarming number who are afraid to talk about it because of the financial implications. These are kids living in some of our poorest neighborhoods. They know that a pair of glasses, which averages about $263 According to the National Association of Vision Care Plans, could mean their family having to go without food, paying rent or other necessities. This includes a sizable number of recently-immigrated students, whose parents face additional language and cultural barriers to accessing quality care.

Regardless of the reason, it all leads to the same place – low performance and discipline problems in school, lack of confidence and diminished social development. That’s a poor vision for the future of our city.

We live in a place where access to education is everyone’s right. Yet, without access to proper vision assessment and correction, children with vision problems are at a major disadvantage both inside and outside the classroom.  If a child does not get the help they need, the risk of developing more severe vision problems increases, as do frustrations in the classrooms. And we all know that the further a child falls behind in school, the less likely they are to graduate and be prepared for the workplace.

A simple pair of glasses can make a big difference! Photo: c. HKI

So how much difference can a simple pair of glasses make? Plenty! Last year ChildSight® provided New York City school children living in poverty with nearly 36,000 vision screenings and more than 8,300 pairs of quality prescription eyeglasses. I get calls, letters and emails every week from parents about how their children have a renewed interest in school and stronger and healthier interactions with their peers after receiving their glasses. As their confidence in the classroom improves, so can their academic performance. In a 2013 survey of teachers from participating schools, 97% saw an improvement in class participation – raising their hands, completing homework, actively listening – by students who received eyeglasses from ChildSight®.

Corrective glasses can help a child see what they’ve been missing – lessons and assignments on the board, new ideas in books and on computer screens, baseballs when they step up to the plate, and all of the positive opportunities the world has to offer.

So, if you haven’t already, be sure to get your child’s eyes checked before the end of the year. If you need help finding resources to access care for your child, email us at childsight@hki.org.

Your child’s – and our city’s – future depends on it!

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Categories: United States

One Comment

  1. Regina A. Lacey RN says...

    I am a registered nurse at Hope Academies in Cleveland, Ohio and would like further information on how to get prescription eye glasses for my students.

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