MILLEDGEVILLE — School-aged youth in need of vision care can take advantage of a costless vision care program to receive free eye examinations and glasses.
Through Communities In Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County, the state-wide Sight for Students program, founded by VSP Vision Care in 1997, provides free vision examinations and glasses to low-income, uninsured children 18 years old and younger.
“For qualifying students in need of glasses who may have poor eyesight, this program can help improve their ability to see and be better students overall,” said Dr. C. Nolan Stephens, chief of the local Sight for Students program. “The only criteria to be eligible for free exams and glasses is a student must be 18 or under, meet certain economic requirements and have no insurance for glasses.”
Since the inception of the year-round Milledgeville Sight for Students program in 2010, more than 200 students have been tested and provided free eye glasses.
“This year, we’ve seen about 60 students. In the past month I saw about eight or nine students, but over the next couple of weeks, we’ll start to see the number of students go up,” Stephens said last week. “If a child is having headaches when reading or studying, has blurred vision, or any type of eye disturbances, this is the perfect opportunity to get their vision checked free of charge.”
Youth with potential vision problems can contact Stephens, who will determine if a child meets the eligibility requirements for the Sight for Students program before handing out gift certificates. Children who receive a Sight for Students gift certificate will receive care from a VSP network eye doctor.
“There are several physicians in the Baldwin County community that participate,” Stephens said. “Once I identify a students’ need, then I make an appointment for them with one of the local eye doctors participating in the program and glasses will be issued at no cost to the parent.”
The American Optometric Association suggests that children should have their first regular eye exam at 6 months. Follow-up exams should be done around age 2 to 3 because this is the age when a child’s visual system undergoes its most rapid development, and when vision correction is most effective. Before the ages of 2 to 3, the condition can be treated, and the brain will use that eye. After this age, it can still be treated, but not as effectively. The earlier it is diagnosed, the greater the chance for complete recovery.
According to 2010 data by Prevent Blindness America, one out of 20 preschool-aged children will have a vision problem that affects their ability to learn. More than 12 million children ages 5 to 15 are visually impaired due to uncorrected refractive errors as a result of near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism, states the World Health Organization.
“Some students perform poorly in school simply because they can’t see properly,” Stephens said, “so why run the risk of causing some sort of eye disease when a child can be examined for free?”
For more information about Sight for Students, contact Stephens at (478) 452-6162, or visit www.sightforstudents.org.
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