But a vital member of that team is often overlooked: the optometrist.
In modern classrooms, experts find more than 80 percent of material is presented visually. Computer screens, projected images from document-readers, textbooks, video screens and other technological devices thrust lights, words and images at today’s children faster than ever, and young eyes can’t always process them correctly.
Dr. Eli Ben-Moshe leaned forward in his chair to make a point during a recent interview about the need for regular vision screening among today’s preschoolers and students.
“Blackboards are gone,” he said. “There is often a lot more reflection and distance” with the whiteboards and screens used today. “There may be two or three screens in different places, so you can’t just tell your kid to sit closer to the board,” said Ben-Moshe, the respected optometrist who has operated Newport Avenue Optometry at 4822 Newport Ave. for the last 16 years.
One of Ben-Moshe’s passions is helping children achieve excellent vision and the resulting success it brings in classrooms and sports venues.
“The most common problem we see, and the most gratifying success for us in the office, is children with reading problems. We are able to give them glasses at a young age that allow them to read much more efficiently,” said Ben-Moshe.
“Their reading skills will improve for the rest of their life,” he said.
According to the Prevent Blindness America organization, 25 percent of school-age children have some form of vision problem that, if untreated, could affect learning ability, personality and adjustment to school. Within the 10 Point Loma cluster public schools, that could include as many as 1,500 students.
Over the last 16 years, Ben-Moshe has met many of the local students.
Newport Avenue Optometry was just voted Best Optometrist/Eyewear for the fourth consecutive year in The Peninsula Beacon’s annual Readers Choice Awards. The office has been Point Loma and Ocean Beach’s optometry destination for 54 years.
Ben-Moshe’s practice is perhaps best summed up in its motto: “Quality care. Every patient, every time.”
Use of computers and video games is also taking a toll on today’s youth, he said.
“The progression of nearsightedness is higher,” he said, “and I expect it to be much higher with the next generation.”
Years ago, school nurses routinely conducted vision screenings at local schools. But with reduced education budgets, parents must take their children for outside optometric exams, even if pediatricians have not identified deficiencies.
“We are often able to diagnose problems missed by school screenings and even pediatricians,” said Ben-Moshe. “Many of these screenings test only for distance. They don’t test reading. They don’t test the visual motor skills or the eyes’ ability to move from one word to the next.”
There are other important reasons to have a child’s eyes checked regularly. A recent Mayo Clinic study, for example, found children with certain vision problems were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
And eyes, like the rest of the body, develop with growth. From black-and-white vision of 20/400 at birth, brain development allows babies to see full colors with about 20/25 accuracy by six months of age, experts say.
As a result, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests infants have their first comprehensive eye exam at six months. Additional exams should be scheduled at age 3 and before entering school annually.
“Kids should have their eyes checked every year before school starts just to make sure they are healthy and ready to go for the school year,” Ben-Moshe said.
The teen years are a prime time for the development of nearsightedness. While diet and nutrition are factors in healthy vision, Ben-Moshe displays more than 1,000 frames to help create stylish eyeglasses and sunglasses kids enjoy wearing.
He can also help parents decide if a child or teen is ready for contact lenses, which can be a crucial self-esteem builder for youngsters. Researchers found children and teens who wore contacts for a three-year period experienced a significant improvement in feelings about their physical appearance, acceptance among peers and ability to play sports.
Blurry baseballs are difficult to hit and catch, just one example of vision’s role in sports. Custom sports eyewear of many different types is also available to help young athletes excel while protecting their eyes.
During the 16 years Ben-Moshe has practiced at Newport Avenue Optometry, school teachers, nurses and principals from every school on the Peninsula have contacted him to refer hundreds of children whose families cannot afford needed vision correction. In every case, the children have received comprehensive examinations and glasses at no cost from him.
“We require a referral from the school for free services,” he said. “However, I talk with teachers of all our patients on a regular basis to explain what they can do to help their students succeed in the classroom. And that is easily the most gratifying aspect for all of us in the office, knowing we’ve helped a child learning to read or become more successful in school.”
Ben-Moshe’s office features state-of-the-art equipment to provide the latest in vision technology. His staff of friendly technicians can produce glasses in one hour or make quick adjustments and repairs.
The salon area has been remodeled with hardwood floors, comfortable furniture and new display cases that include an expanded selection of children’s frames.
Newport Avenue Optometry accepts most insurance plans. Staff members will help determine and explain coverage benefits. Flex plans are also welcome.
For an appointment, call (619) 222-0559, or visit www.NewportAve-Optometry.com. 10 SIGNS THAT A CHILD’S VISION MAY BE IN NEED OF CORRECTION
• Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
• Losing his/her place while reading or using a finger to guide his eyes when reading
• Squinting or tilting the head to see better
• Frequent eye rubbing
• Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing
• Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
• Avoiding activities which require near vision, like reading or homework, or distance vision, like participation in sports or other recreational activities
• Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
• Avoiding use of a computer because it “hurts my eyes”
• Poor grade achievement
— Source: www.allaboutvision.com