A recent LA Times article highlighted a growing and disturbing problem:
Many school-age children who need glasses don’t have them.
As the article notes, the reasons why children enter school without glasses are complex. The problem primarily exists among low-income families, many of which qualify for assistance through Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. However, many of these families don’t understand the process for getting eye exams and glasses for their children, so the kids enter school without them.
The consequences for these kids can be severe: If a child can’t see properly, it’s difficult for him or her to learn. As the child falls behind in his or her classes, self-esteem issues arise and the child becomes frustrated and discouraged. Intervention, in the form of an eye exam and getting the right prescription for eye glasses is essential, but not always the easiest thing to arrange, particularly if a child’s parents are unfamiliar with the healthcare system or simply can’t take time off work to get the child to an eye doctor.
Making things more complicated is that teachers and parents may not be able to identify the signs of vision problems, so nobody thinks to get the kid to an eye doctor. Children who have had vision problems for all or most of their lives may not understand that their vision isn’t normal. This means that the kids themselves can’t tell adults that they need to have their eyes examined.
Fortunately, a charity called Vision to Learn works to help kids into the glasses they need. The organization sends mobile eye clinics to schools and the children receive eye exams. If a child needs glasses, he or she can pick out the frames and receive his or her new glasses two weeks later. For many children, these eyeglasses represent access to learning as well as the hope of a better life.