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Financial Assistance for Vision Care in Massachusetts

Children’s Vision Care Resources for Massachusetts Parents, Educators, Healthcare Providers and Legislators

For Parents

Unlike other senses, a child develops vision over the first few years of life. A vision disorder in a child means that the child may have been born with a vision deficit, or the child’s vision has not developed normally. Vision disorders are the most common disabling condition of childhood but they hold a lifetime of impact if they are ignored or left untreated.

Did You Know?

  • 1 in 17 preschoolers develops a vision problem that needs treatment.
  • 1 in 4 school-aged children need eyeglasses to see the blackboard or to read a book.
  • Some vision conditions, if not treated, will lead to permanent adult vision loss. This means that early detection, diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment of a child’s vision condition is critical.
  • Complaints and behaviors such as itchy eyes, headaches, frequent blinking, or squinting can be signs of a vision problem.
  • Untreated vision problems may contribute to challenges with learning or enjoyment of reading, falling behind in school, having difficulty playing sports, or socializing.
  • Children born prematurely, those with a sibling or parent who had a childhood vision disorder, or those who have neurodevelopmental delay or other special health care needs, are more likely to also have a vision problem.

When to Take Your Child to an Eye Doctor

If your child has not passed a vision screening, shows any signs of a vision problem, or reports broken or lost eyeglasses, please take your child to an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. Make the appointment today.

If you need help finding an eye doctor, call your child’s pediatrician, school nurse or health manager. Annual visits to eye doctors (ophthalmologists and optometrists) and eyeglasses (including replacements if needed) are covered by Mass Health insurance. Private insurance plans vary in their eye exam and eyeglass benefits. If you need help understanding your child’s insurance coverage, call your health insurance company – the phone number is on the card. Free assistance programs are available if your child does not have any health insurance benefits that cover eye exams or glasses. (see Healthy Eyes Eyeglasses Program).

Take Action

Do not wait for your child to complain about their vision. Young children with vision problems usually will not complain that it is hard to see because they do not know what normal vision is.  If you are concerned about your child’s vision, even with a pass on a vision screening at school or the pediatrician’s office, make an appointment for your child to have a comprehensive eye exam from an eye doctor experienced in treating young children.

Facebook Advocacy Group

The Children’s Vision MA Advocacy Group on Facebook is an internet-based organization whose mission is to identify areas of need for children’s vision services, act on advocacy opportunities to improve access to care, and share resources and information to support improved vision outcomes for children.

Membership is open to parents, grandparents, guardians, caretakers, and families of children who have been diagnosed with vision conditions. Others who are interested in the topic of children’s vision are welcome to join as well.

For Educators

Teachers want all of their students to reach their greatest potential. Yet, as a teacher, it can be hard to know which children are having difficulty seeing. The child has no point of reference for good eyesight and there are often no physical signs.

Struggling through blurry vision is challenging for the young child too. Unlike other chronic conditions presenting as health emergencies such as asthma or diabetes, children with vision problems do not appear to be in distress, even when they are at risk of permanent vision loss or learning difficulties.

1 in 17 preschoolers, and 1 in 4 school-aged children have a vision disorder. Signs of a vision problem are not always obvious: a student who dislikes reading, learning letters, or writing, cannot stay on task, is challenged by classroom activities, seems uncoordinated, has a hard time socially, or does not wish to play outside, may have an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem.

Teachers are in a unique position to identify children with vision problems. You Can Help!

  • Know which children in your classroom have a vision disorder and how the treatment should be used in the classroom.
  • Alert the school nurse to any potential or observed classroom concerns.
  • Inform and encourage parents about the importance of an eye exam if their child is referred from a school vision screening or you have noticed symptoms that may indicate a vision problem.
  • Help children understand that clear vision can help them succeed and enjoy learning, and discourage peer teasing of children wearing eyeglasses.
  • Set the expectation that children in your classroom need to have their eyeglasses or other treatment, every day in school.

Having all children in the classroom seeing clearly, every day, enables a teacher to better direct additional support resources where they are needed most.  Most common childhood vision disorders are treatable simply by wearing eyeglasses. Until the child receives and maintains their treatment as prescribed, including in the classroom, they will not see as clearly or as easily as their naturally better-sighted peers.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Clear vision is critical to a child’s ability to learn, play, and develop social skills.
  • 1 in 4 American school-aged child needs eyeglasses to see the blackboard or to read a book.
  • Many children arrive at school with a diagnosed vision problem but no eyeglasses. The eyeglasses may be broken, lost, never purchased or reordered through insurance, or never collected from the optical center.
  • Some vision conditions, if not treated, will lead to permanent adult vision loss. This means that early detection, diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment of a child’s vision condition is critical while they are still young.
  • Children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental delay or with other special health care needs are more likely to also have vision problems. These children should be under the regular care of an eye doctor experienced in treating this population.
  • Too often, children identified by the school nurse by a vision screening as having a potential vision problem which needs follow-up, never receive care from an eye doctor.
  • Research has shown that correcting vision problems improves a child’s social interaction, their classroom behavior and participation, and their academic and athletic performance.

No child in Massachusetts need go without an eye exam and treatment. Most health insurances cover a comprehensive eye exam, and free programs are available if cost is a concern. (Please see Healthy Eyes Program)

Together, let us ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop their best possible vision. 

Think of Vision

Think of Vision Guide for Preschool Teachers
Signs of Vision Problems in Preschoolers You May See in the Classroom

Think of Vision Guide for Preschool Teachers (Spanish)
Signs of Vision Problems in Preschoolers You May See in the Classroom

Think of Vision Guide for Teachers of School-Aged Children
Signs of Vision Problems in School-aged Children You May See in the Classroom

Think of Vision: A Guide for Teachers of School-Aged Children (Spanish)
Signs of Vision Problems in School-aged Children You May See in the Classroom


Eyes That Thrive

Vision Action Plan

Vision Action Plan Compliance Tracker

Children’s Risk Assessment


Educators Fact Sheet

Unlike other senses, a child develops vision over the first few years of life. A vision disorder in a child means that the child may have been born with a vision deficit, or the child’s vision has not developed normally. Vision disorders are the most common disabling condition of childhood but they hold a lifetime of impact if they are ignored or left untreated. Some untreated vision conditions will lead to permanent adult vision loss.

Children with vision problems may not complain that it is hard to see because they do not know what normal vision is. This is especially true for children with special health care needs where other more prominent conditions may take medical precedence. It is important to know that children born more than 3 weeks prematurely, or who have neurodevelopmental delay or other special health care needs, are also more likely to develop vision problems than other children.

The FIRST STEP in vision care is a comprehensive eye exam. Even if your child had a vision screening, eye examination by an eye doctor is the only way for parents and teachers to understand how well a child with special health care needs sees, and/or if the child’s poor vision may be interfering with other developmental progress. It is especially important that children with special health care needs have a regular eye exam from an eye doctor experienced in treating children.


Taking Action: The Massachusetts Preschool Vision Law states that children with Neurodevelopmental delay must be referred for a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Vision disorders are the most common disabling condition of childhood: 1 in 17 preschoolers and 1 in 4 school age children has a vision problem that requires treatment.

Vision assessment, screening and eye examinations are the only way to understand how well a child sees. Vision screening includes:

  • Birth to three years: eye assessment by the Primary Care Physician (PCP) including ocular history, assessment of lids, ocular motility, pupils and red reflex
  • Age three years through high school: vision screening using approved devices and protocols by the PCP and public school nurse.

Children born prematurely, or who are diagnosed with neurodevelopmental delay are at greater risk of developing vision problems. The MA Preschool Vision Law provides direction for this group: An Act Relative to Eye Examinations for Children, 2004:

Within 30 days of the start of Kindergarten, a child must show a pass on a vision screening or proof of a comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor within the previous 12 months. Children with Neurodevelopmental delay, and children who fail their vision screening, must be referred for a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

It is important that vision screening is performed accurately to ensure the best outcome. It is also important that parents and caregivers understand the need to follow through with a comprehensive eye exam if their child has not passed a vision screening.

Prevent Blindness offers the only Vision Screening Certification training nationwide. Training is offered in person or on line. If you or your staff would like to understand more about childhood vision or become certified trainers, click here. (go to Vision Screening page)

Massachusetts is the national leader in children’s health.  Ninety-eight percent of our young people have health care coverage.  No other state comes close to that rate.  We also know that healthy children are able to learn and succeed in school.  However, there is a critical area that is holding children in Massachusetts back from this success — their inability to see the blackboard or words on a page.

Vision disorders are the most common disabling condition of childhood, affecting 1 in 17 preschoolers and 1 in 4 school age children.  Many children start school with undetected vision problems, and continue through school without treatment.  It can be difficult to determine which children have trouble seeing as often there are no physical signs. Kids don’t know that their vision is impaired because they have only their own experience to compare it to. To them, their vision is ‘normal’, even when it is not.

An NIH-funded research reports a significant correlation between the status of a preschool child’s vision and his/her success in acquiring early literacy skills—ones necessary for learning to read.  Right now, we do not know how many Massachusetts children who are struggling to learn, and perhaps enrolled in other support services, actually just have an untreated vision disorder.

Assuring optimal vision for all children is solvable.  We need help from the Commonwealth’s legislators to close the significant gaps in access, resources and awareness within the current system of pediatric vision care in Massachusetts. 

In 2004, we took steps to address this with the passage and enactment of Chapter 181, An Act Relative to Eye Examinations for Children.

Although attention to a child’s vision and eye health is critical to support learning and development, there is no statewide system for collecting information on vision screening, or data for surveillance or evaluation, to support case management activities. Establishing a rigorous children’s vision health system that informs public health interventions will lead to better resource allocation for school districts, improved access benefitting overall child health, and provide opportunities, especially educational opportunities for students, that may otherwise go unrealized.

In November 2017, the Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of establishing a Special Commission on Children’s Vision and Eye Health. The Commission’s report will be released in 2020.