Books? Nooks? BPA-free backpacks? While the right equipment will help make your child’s transition from summer back to school easier and more fun, issues like vision, hearing, allergies, dental matters, and mental health may seem less obvious but also need to be addressed at the start of the school year (or before)–especially with very young children. While many schools provide fundamental health exams of various kinds during the course of the school year, these ideas will help ensure you cover more than the back to school basics for your child, giving her a healthy head start for all of the challenges ahead:
Eye-dentify Problems Early
Statistics say as many as one in every 20 children can’t see out of one of their eyes–a difficult determination for parents to make. Also, parents and older siblings who needed glasses at an early age may predispose younger children to the same, and eye disease often knows no age limits. A pediatrician should do a preliminary vision test, referring your child to an ophthalmologist if necessary. Often so-called learning problems have been traced back to easily correctable vision problems and nothing more.
Listen and Learn
In many cases hearing problems are easier to detect than vision problems, though some may be more subtle. Many children experience a succession of ear infections as babies and toddlers which can impact their hearing. Undiagnosed hearing issues can result in wrongly diagnosed learning disabilities, and regardless of infant and toddler health it’s always prudent to ask your pediatrician about a hearing test before entering school.
Allergies and Administrators
Sources report allergies have been on the rise for more than a decade. While environmental factors are often the culprit, diets that are largely about fast and/or processed, chemical-, preservative-infused foods are also considered perpetrators. Many schools are self-proclaimed peanut-free zones, but your child’s allergy requirements may exceed the basics. Is he allergic to bees? Strawberries? Gluten? Latex? Make sure the school has your child’s information, including messages sent to the teacher, principal, school nurse, coach, etc. While many schools have efficient communications mechanisms in place, educators and administrators likely juggle the needs of many students at once so don’t rely entirely on a single message to do the trick. It may be best to reach out separately to anyone that will be in contact with your child. A coach on the field will better remember that your daughter is allergic to bee stings out there if you take the time to inform her directly.
At birth, babies already have 20 primary teeth, some fully developed in the jaw according to kidshealth.org. While good oral health should begin early and many children will have visited the dentist several times already, a trip to the dentist before school starts may help identify and manage any mouth-related issues (cavities and/or tooth decay from milk, juice, and sugar products; gum disease) that could cause pain, discomfort, and time missed in the classroom.
A Beautiful Mind
A subject still taboo in our seemingly advanced 21st century, mental health is an important determinant of the success or failure of children and adults throughout their lives. And while diagnosing mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and pronounced phobias is better left to the professionals, if your child has frequent mood swings, appears overly anxious, has serious behavioral issues, or intense and overwhelming or immobilizing feelings of fear, it may be time to consult a pediatrician who may refer him to a mental health counselor.
Finally, make sure your child’s emergency contact numbers are current. These include doctor and dentist. If your child is on medication, the school nurse must be made aware and anything taken during the day must be in its original pharmacy bottle.
While we all want our children to excel in school and enjoy being there, fortifying them for the job ahead will help make all of that possible.