Vision Screening: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet

Screening tests, conducted to identify health conditions that might need further assessment in an examination, are an important part of well-child health care. In this fact sheet, Head Start health managers, health staff, and disability coordinators will find a concise description of vision screening.

The following is an excerpt from Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen.

What Is Vision Screening?
How Is Vision Screening Done?
What Might I Observe?
Follow-Up to Vision Screening

What is vision screening?

Vision screening checks how well a child can see and how well the eyes move together.

How is vision screening done?

Vision screening is done by a health professional or trained staff, parent, or volunteer.

It involves:

  • Having the child identify letters, shapes, or figures on a standard eye chart
  • Observing the child's eye movements ("strabismus screening")
  • Observing for other eye abnormalities (e.g., redness, swelling, discharge)

What might I observe?

  • Eyes that cross or point outward
  • Frequent blinking, squinting, or rubbing eyes
  • Difficulty picking up small objects, catching balls, or seeing distant objects
  • Holding books and objects unusually close
  • Short attention for visual activities
  • Frequent complaints of eye discomfort, headaches, or dizziness

Follow-up to vision screening:

A child "fails" the vision screening if:

  • She is unable to identify more than half the symbols on the 20/40 line
  • There is more than a two-line difference in vision between one eye and the other, even if the worse eye is 20/40 or better.

The child should be rescreened. If she fails again, she should be referred to her health care provider for evaluation and treatment. Children with eye infections should be rescreened after treatment.

Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat eye infections
  • Eye patch
  • Eyeglasses
  • Eye muscle surgery
  • Special education or early intervention services

Vision is important for development, physical activity, and social interactions. Early identification and treatment of vision problems can help promote a child's development.

"Vision Screening: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet." Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen. Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 2016. English.

Last Reviewed: January 2016

Last Updated: January 19, 2016