The New Jersey Senate Education Committee passed a bill that directs the State Board of Education to require that children 6 years and younger entering public schools or Head Start Programs have a comprehensive exam by an eye doctor.
SB 2804 requires that the exam take place by Jan. 1 of their initial year of enrollment, according to a press release from the Vision Impact Institute.
“According to experts, up to 80% of all learning occurs visually, meaning that children with poor vision are likely to have a major disadvantage when starting school,” Kristan Gross, global executive director of the Vision Impact Institute, said in the release.
In addition to bill sponsors, Teresa Ruiz (D), Shirley Turner (D), Patrick Diegnan (D) and Troy Singleton (D), Gross credits its passage to the Vision Impact Institute’s Kids See: Success initiative, a partnership between the institute, Optometry Giving Sight and other supporters.
Gross told Primary Care Optometry News, “One of the key focus areas for the Vision Impact Institute is children’s vision, and in the U.S., there are only two other states that require eye exams for children before they enter kindergarten. In 2016 we launched Kids See: Success ... We identified a number of states that were already prioritizing vision for kids in schools – New Jersey was one with a robust eye screening program and progressive leaders who were willing to take the next step.”
Christopher J. Quinn
New Jersey practitioner, former American Optometric Association president and PCON Editorial Board Member, Christopher J. Quinn, OD, FAAO, told PCON, “The sponsors of this legislation recognize the facts: screening children for visual problems has been a monumental failure and waste of precious resources. Screenings miss most children who have visual problems, and those who fail screenings rarely get the care they need.
“The only real solution to meeting the visual, educational and health needs of children is through a comprehensive examination performed by a doctor of optometry or an ophthalmologist,” he continued. “Investing in our children to maximize performance in school will pay dividends for years in improved educational performance, reduce the number of children who require special education, and reduce undesirable social and behavior problems. This legislation is forward-looking in addressing a solvable health care issue by reducing visual disability and improving educational opportunities for all of New Jersey’s children.” – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Disclosures: Gross is global executive director of the Vision Impact Institute. Quinn reports no relevant financial disclosures.