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Screenings and School

In most schools, children in the middle years are routinely screened for a number of common physical conditions. Hearing and vision tests are two of the most frequent evaluations, important because difficulties with these senses are often subtle, and neither parents, teachers, nor children may even recognize that a problem exists. While most difficulties with hearing or vision should have been identified prior to entering school, some may have been missed and others develop later. A child who has difficulty reading the blackboard may not know that she is seeing differently from any­one else. Nevertheless, even mild deficiencies of sight can signifi­cantly affect a child's ability to learn.

In some states these screening tests are mandated by law and may also include dental checks, scoliosis evaluations, blood pressure readings, and height and weight measurements. In school dis­tricts in which nurses are available for more thorough assessments, testing for tuberculosis and even physical exams may be con­ducted.

If the school notifies you that these screenings have turned up a potential problem in your child, have her checked by your pediatri­cian. In the meantime the school nurse should be able to tell you what the school's findings may mean, and whether there is any ur­gency in obtaining an evaluation by your doctor. In some cases you may be able to wait until your youngster's next well-child visit for a repeat screening or a more comprehensive evaluation.

Sometimes your youngster's pediatrician will find that the suspected abnormality is not serious after all. Even so, this does not mean that the screening was inaccurate. Screening tests are de­signed to identify children who may have a problem, but a more thorough examination by a doctor is always necessary to determine the extent and severity of the condition.

Dental Screening

Students at some district schools receive a dental exam in conjunction with a dental education program. A dental exam will not be given to any child whose parent requests an exemption in writing.

To make sure your child is ready for school, California law, Ed. Code 49452.8, now requires children to have an oral health assessment by May 31 in either kindergarten or first grade, whichever is his or her first year in public school. Assessments that have occurred within the 12 months before your child enters school also meet this requirement. The law specifies that the assessment must be done by a licensed dentist or other licensed or registered dental health professional. Learn more.

Vision Screening

Tests to evaluate the vision of each child, including tests for visual acuity and color vision, will be performed upon first enrollment and at least every third year thereafter, for students in grades K, 2, 5, 8. The evaluation may be waived upon presentation of an appropriate certificate from a physician or optometrist. Parents will be notified if their child fails the vision screening test. (Ed. Code § 49450-49457)

Hearing Screening

Students in grades 1, 2, 5, 8, and 10 are evaluated for adequate hearing by an authorized individual or agency. The evaluation may be waived upon parent request. Parents will be notified if their child fails the screening test. (Ed. Code § 49452 and 49454)