SUNBURY - Five percent of our nation's preschoolers and one in four school-aged children have vision problems. Part of the problem is, that young children often do not know that the way they see the world is not the way everyone sees it. The result is that far too many vision problems remain undetected in children.

Without early treatment, vision conditions can lead to permanent vision loss, and learning difficulties. And research also shows a correlation between undiagnosed vision problems in children and resulting behavioral/medical issues such as low self-esteem, attention deficit disorder, criminal activity, etc.

Central Susquehanna Sight Services (a United Way agency) urges parents to follow a continuum of eye care that can include both vision screening and comprehensive eye exams at regular intervals. Any child who experiences vision problems or shows symptoms of eye trouble should receive a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

If you are planning to take your child to the eye doctor, here are some helpful tips:

Schedule the appointment at a time of day when your child is not likely to be sleepy, hungry, or cranky.

Make a list of your questions and bring it with you. Take notes when speaking to the doctor, so that you can refer to them later.

Have a plan ready for the waiting room. Bring a favorite book, small toy and or/snack to pass the time.

Let your child watch a family member get an eye exam. Have the doctor explain what is being done, step by step, and encourage the child to ask questions.

Bring your child's favorite cuddly toy. The doctor can "examine" the bear or doll and holding a toy may keep little hands off of expensive equipment.

Relax. Children look to adults for cues: If you seem nervous, your child may become anxious. A trip to the eye doctor should be fun for both of you.

The National Institute of Health and the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggest that eye exams be given by 6 months of age, at age 3, and at age 6 or before entering first grade. According to the AOA, two to four percent of America's children develop conditions known as strabismus and or amblyopia. Amblyopia is defined as reduced vision, usually in one eye only, without any evidence of a disease and which cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses. Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned, with one eye turning in, out, up, or down. Early detection and treatment of these disorders during childhood is essential for preventing or minimizing vision loss.

For 66 years, CSSS has been screening children for symptoms of eye conditions and referring children with symptoms for a complete eye examination by an eye care physician. On an annual basis, CSSS screens over 1,000 preschoolers in the Susquehanna Valley.

Please contact CSSS at 570-286-1471 for more information and/or to make a donation.

About Central Susquehanna Sight Services (CSSS)

CSSS is funded, in part, by the United Way, the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, in the Department of Labor & Industry.