In Oklahoma, theres a wind of change about to take place in elementary schools in the form of The Childrens Vision for Excellence Act.

The act, which requires Oklahoma elementary school students to receive vision screenings, was officially signed into law on May 17. This means that beginning in the 2007-08 school year, the parents of Oklahoma children entering kindergarten, first and third grades must provide certification that their child has passed a vision screening within the previous 12 months.

The Oklahoma Childrens Vision for Excellence Act seeks to help children, like this one, who struggle to see the chalkboard.

The State Department of Health will form an advisory committee to make recommendations to the Board of Health for vision screening standards. They will also provide a list of qualified screeners to the State Department of Health, which will become available via the Internet. The advisory committee will consist of one Oklahoma O.D., one Oklahoma ophthalmologist, and one representative each from the State Department of Education and a statewide organization for the prevention of blindness.

If the child has not passed the vision screening, he or she must undergo a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The eye-care professional who conducts the comprehensive eye exam is required to share his or her findings with the childs parents, school and pediatrician or primary health-care provider. However, no student will be prevented from attending school due to a parent or guardians failure to provide a report of the students vision screening, or an examiners failure to provide the results of a students comprehensive eye examination.

The new law will result in screenings for 140,000 students and an estimated 10,000 follow-up eye exams per year, according to the Vision Council of America.

Obviously, its in the best interest for children to undergo a comprehensive eye exam, but a screening is better than nothing, says optometrist Michael Bennett, current president of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. (OAOP) Were [the association] looking forward to educating children, their parents and educators on the importance of vision and learning and overall eye health. And of course, we want to make sure that children who do not pass the initial screening get the help they need.

The OAOP hopes this bill is a first step toward achieving the ultimate goal of improving childrens eye and vision care, Dr. Bennett adds.

Vol. No: 143:06Issue: 6/15/2006