Year of Children's Vision

About the Year of Children's Vision

Overview: Prevent Blindness - via its National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health - is working in partnership with the National Head Start Association, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Good-Lite Company and SchoolHealth in an initiative called the Year of Children’s Vision (YOCV.) The goal of YOCV is to provide national guidance to staff of Head Start programs and other early childhood educators to standardize approaches to vision screening, improve follow-up for eye care for children who fail the vision screening, provide family friendly educational information and consult with some of the nation’s leading pediatric eye care providers to ensure best practices.

The Year of Children’s Vision promises to improve uniformity in the national approach for children’s vision health in Head Start programs. The effort will provide opportunities for learning and discussion on a monthly basis; free, downloadable resources in multiple languages; expert presentations; and maintain this website for future reference.

YOCV is an exciting, one-of-a-kind effort to support the vision health of children in Head Start programs leading to improved development and school readiness.

The Need: Vision impairments are common conditions among young children, affecting 5 to 10 percent of all preschool-aged children. If not detected and treated early, vision impairment could affect all aspects of life, negatively impacting a child’s ability to learn, athletic performance, and self-esteem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, impaired vision can affect a child’s emotional, neurologic, and physical development by potentially limiting the range of experiences and kinds of information to which the child is exposed. A leading preschool vision screening study notes that vision screening is critical to the welfare of our children and can have an impact not only on vision and eye health but also on social development and productivity.

Research has shown that infants and young children with visual impairment have delayed motor development milestones; may express particular mannerisms such as gazing at bright lights, blinking, or eye rubbing; and have delayed language development. Additionally, children with special needs and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds have been shown to have an increased likelihood of eye problems. Improved assessment tools, education and outreach initiatives to support earlier identification of vision problems and appropriate referral to eye care in these vulnerable populations will result in improved potential for better vision. Timely intervention and effective treatment lead to long-term improvements in children’s vision and eye health and potentially that of the population at large.

The federal Office of Head Start recognizes the role that healthy vision plays in proper child development and currently requires all children in Head Start programs to be screened for vision problems within 45 days of a child’s enrollment. The implementation of this program requirement is left to be interpreted at a local level with little national guidance presently available on training of staff in vision screening, tracking outcomes, or conducting vision screenings. This results in wide variation in vision screening approaches and an inability to measure the success of vision screening practices in Head Start nationally due to differences in data collection and program procedures.