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October 3, 2018
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Announces No-Cost Children’s Eye Exams, Glasses and Resources

Research Shows One in Four School-Age Children Has a Vision Disorder

No-cost eye exams and glasses will be provided to students at schools across New York again this year through a partnership between the New York State Education Department, the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA), VSP Global, and the New York State Society of Opticians (NYSSO). This marks the second year of this effort to raise awareness about providing accessible vision care and resources to those who are in need, as well as the critical role clear vision plays in children’s physical, cognitive and social development.

“While all public schools provide vision screenings, it is difficult for some students to get the necessary comprehensive eye examinations they need to identify more complex vision issues,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Every student deserves access to quality vision care and we are proud to once again support this effort to bring excellent care and services directly to our students and schools.”

“A child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom: Reading, writing, smart board work and using computers are all tasks that can be difficult for students with undiagnosed vision problems,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “A student who has trouble paying attention or looks at everything but the smart board may actually have a problem seeing it. It’s so important that we focus on the crucial part a child’s vision plays in his or her school career.”

Research shows that one in four school-age children has a vision disorder which impacts his or her ability to properly learn. To help address this challenge, NYSED coordinated no-cost eye exams at the schools below where local doctors of optometry, including VSP network doctors, will volunteer their time to provide the eye exams. Through their program, Eyes of Hope, VSP Global will donate prescription eyeglasses to each student who is diagnosed as needing them. Within a few weeks after the eye exam, local ophthalmic dispensers will volunteer their time at the schools to deliver the selected eyeglasses and provide the necessary fittings for the children.

Last year, volunteer doctors of optometry conducted 152 comprehensive eye exams, and free eyeglasses were provided to students if prescribed. In addition, VSP Global donated Eyes of Hope gift certificates to assist another 250 students with no-cost eye exams and glasses from a local VSP network doctor’s office.

Free Eye Exams at Five Schools Across New York

Free eye exams will be provided to students at the schools below. Parents and guardians who would like a child to participate should contact the school directly.

  • Oct. 11 & 12: Keane Elementary School, Schenectady, NY
  • Oct. 15: Camden Elementary School, Camden, NY
  • Oct. 16: RJ McNulty Academy, Amsterdam, NY
  • Oct. 17: Gansevoort Elementary School, Rome, NY
  • Oct. 18: Staley Elementary School, Rome, NY

“While most parents agree that good vision helps kids do their best in school, nearly half wait until their child complains about their vision to schedule an eye exam,” said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, President of VSP Vision Care. “Through these events, we’re honored to be able to expand access to comprehensive eye exams and glasses for children in need and help them achieve their full potential.”

"We are delighted, once again, to partner with VSP, NYSED and NYSSO to provide comprehensive vision exams to children across New York State,” NYSOA Executive Director Thomas Cote said. “Identifying vision issues in children at an early age is vital to brain development and their ability to learn and retain knowledge. We hope this will engage more parents to initiate annual vision screenings for their children."

"NYSSO is thrilled to partner with NYSED and VSP Global in this important New York State-based initiative,” NYSSO President Dale S. Clemens said. “A child's vision changes as they grow, and it is crucial that their eyeglasses fit properly to ensure their prescription provides the improved vision intended and makes a difference in their lives."

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said, “Once again, I would like to congratulate Chancellor Rosa, the Board of Regents, Commissioner Elia and the State Education Department for continuing this outstanding and important program. This innovative and comprehensive statewide outreach will go a long way in helping so many of our families and students succeed. I would like to thank all the local optometrists who will be volunteering their time to provide these services and would urge all parents and students to attend the various locations around the state.”

Senator Carl L. Marcellino, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “School Vision Health Month draws valuable attention to the fact that it is difficult for a student to succeed in the classroom if they struggle to see. A child’s overall educational performance depends on proper vision. Every student deserves access to quality vision care and these free exams and glasses will allow children in need to remove an unnecessary obstacle to success in the classroom.”

Additional Resources

Information on school vision health resources is available on the NYSED website. Further, the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Health has vision programs to ensure that all current and new students are screened. The DOE also targets high needs populations who are at risk for serious vision problems with additional evaluation and treatment. All students in community schools and who are currently in temporary housing are provided with a full set of services, including screenings, exams and eye glasses. More information on vision and health services can be found on the NYCDOE website.

NYSED licenses all vision professionals, including physicians, optometrists and ophthalmic dispensers, assuring that New Yorkers receive competent and professional eye care. This initiative will provide the necessary awareness to encourage parents to bring their children to an eye care professional. School vision screenings are not diagnostic, and a complete eye examination is fundamental for a child with vision difficulties to succeed in school. There are also certain warning signs parents can look out for such as: avoiding or not liking reading; short attention span; difficulty copying from a chalkboard; pulling a book in close to their face; lots of blinking or eye rubbing; guiding their eyes with a finger or pencil while reading; and falling performance in school.

The New York State Optometric Association, founded in 1895, is dedicated to enhancing the vision care and health of the public and promoting the art and science of optometry. New York State Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a leading role in a patient’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. A non-profit individual membership organization, NYSOA works with local affiliated optometric associations throughout New York State, and is affiliated with the American Optometric Association (AOA). Members practice in a variety of settings including private offices, in association with other optometric professionals, and in hospital clinics and health maintenance organizations.

The New York State Society of Opticians (NYSSO), representing over 4,000 Licensed Ophthalmic Dispensers, plays an important role in protecting the public’s vision and promoting healthy eye care across the Empire State. NYSSO is especially vigilant when it comes to children’s eye care. Every year the Society issues warnings to parents, children and schools about the dangers of cosmetic and costume contact lenses and the threat such unregulated items can pose to the public health. More information can be found on their website.    

The American Optometric Association recommends that children see an eye care professional at six months, three years and around five years old. After that, an eye exam should be scheduled at least once a year.