kids screen time

With Screen Time Creeping Up, Eye Exams Essential for Kids

Optometrists are offering advice to protect children’s eyes, as one Chicago mom creates a bus tour to get children in under-served Hispanic and African American communities the vision screenings they need.

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Dinai Yelverton, a Chicago event planner and mom, wants to make sure all children get the vision screenings they need.

“I've been wearing glasses since I was in second grade. And it's important. I think sometimes people forget that. You can have a lot of developmental delays. It can cause other problems if you can't see correctly,” Yelverton said.

That’s why she created the 2020 Perfect Vision campaign.

“I decided to do something big and crazy and get a bus and tour it around to various neighborhoods in the city of Chicago,” Yelverton said.

The bus tour made two stops in August. Optometrist Dr. Stephanie Johnson conducted vision screenings for about 20 children at the first stop in the Gresham neighborhood.

“Over 75% of the children that I screened actually failed the screening, and even the ones that passed said that they hadn't had their eyes examined within a year,” Johnson said.

With kids on devices more than ever during remote learning, Dr. Johnson says parents need to apply the 20-20-20 rule.

“Every 20 minutes look at least 20 feet away, which means you are looking up at the ceiling or out the window, for at least 20 seconds, and then you can go back,” Johnson explained.

Many parents are also wondering if blue light glasses would help lessen eye strain, but Dr. Johnson said, “I think it should be prescribed. Too many parents are just going online and just buying it.” An optometrist can tell parents if they’re needed at an eye exam.

Kids in Illinois are required to get an eye exam when they enter Kindergarten. Dr. Johnson says kids should get their eyes checked every year after that, similar to a pediatrician conducting an annual physical exam.

That’s not happening in many homes in Chicago. “There is a huge gap in vision healthcare, specifically in African American and Hispanic communities,” Yelverton said.

With the 2020 Perfect Vision campaign, professional optometrists offer free screenings for kids at each stop.  

“If they do fail, they will be notified that day.We have also partnered with VSP Eyes of Hope who has donated gift certificates. So, if there's any families that do fail the vision screening and need a comprehensive eye exam, they can go ahead and get that at no charge to them. They can also get glasses should they need them as well,” Yelverton said.

The next bus stop is Thursday, Sept. 10, at 332 E. 51st St. in the Bronzeville neighborhood from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Appointments are encouraged, but not required. For more information, go to www.perfectvisioncampaign.com.

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