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Vision tests should be first for students

CHICAGO -- The start of the school year is right around the corner for most kids. To give their children a head start to a successful school year, parents need to educate themselves on the importance of healthy eyesight in relation to classroom performance. Since 80 percent of a child's learning is visual, a child's ability to clearly see the blackboard and the words on a page is critical. Prevent Blindness America, the nation's oldest volunteer eye health and safety organization, has declared August as Children's Eye Health and Safety Awareness month in an effort to encourage parents to learn about ways they can help protect their child's vision. Many children do not know they have a problem because they think how they see is how everyone else sees. Unfortunately, some students who are labeled as having a learning disability or behavioral problems may simply have a vision impairment. "Since one in four school-age children have some form of vision problem, we need to make children's vision and eye health a priority today, before we begin to see the negative effects," Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, said. "A child should not need to start failing in school before we realize there is a problem." Prevent Blindness America has recently launched star pupils, a program specifically designed to educate parents on what they can do to ensure healthy eyesight for their kids. Parents may simply log on to starpupils.org and receive free information on everything from common eye conditions in children to tips on how to protect eyes from injury while playing sports. Starpupils.org also houses a unique and easy-to-use comprehensive database for children's vision care requirements for entering schools. Another added feature of the star pupils Web site is the children and eye problems web discussion forum, which allows parents the opportunity to discuss all subjects ranging from general information on eye conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and its treatment, to shared experiences and emotional support. The online community has grown to be the most active forum on the Prevent Blindness America Web site with more than 500 active members. Lastly, Prevent Blindness America offers "the eye patch club," a program geared towards children with amblyopia and their families. Eye doctors commonly treat amblyopia by having the child wear a patch over the unaffected eye for extended periods of time. But compliance can be difficult and challenging for children and their parents. The eye patch club program is designed to encourage the children to wear their patches as prescribed by their doctor. Among other materials, members of the club receive their own special calendar and stickers. The stickers are placed on the calendar for each day the child wears his or her patch. Once the calendar is complete, the child may send it into Prevent Blindness America to receive a special prize. The eye patch club kit may be purchased for $12.95. Proceeds will go to Prevent Blindness America's sight-saving programs, including free vision screenings. "We want 2010 to be the best school year ever for your child," Parry added. "We hope that everyone makes a trip to the eye doctor a part of the back-to-school checklist!" For more information on children's eye health and safety, amblyopia and other children's vision issues, or to sign up for The Eye Patch Club, please call Prevent Blindness America at 1-800-331-2020 or visit starpupils.org.

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