Summer is going by all too quickly, and school will be here soon. There are lots of things to think about in back to school planning. It is important to start early and not to overlook one of the most important things…your child’s vision. There are many misconceptions about a child’s eyes that I want to “clear up”.
Myth #1: “My child sees well because they never told me that they can’t see.” This is not true. Many children who have difficulty seeing think that everyone sees the way they do because they have nothing to compare it to. Most young children with vision trouble will not tell their parent that they see poorly.
Myth #2: “The pediatrician checks my child’s eyes at their annual wellness visit and they seem to being fine.” Although a lot vision problems can been found in the pediatrician’s office, there are many vision issues that cannot be found. The only way for a child’s vision to be thoroughly and accurately evaluated is by an eye doctor. Optometrists are very qualified to see young children. With a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilation, the child’s true prescription can be determined. The eye doctor can see if the child’s eyes are developing normally or if they need some type of intervention to try to ensure that their vision can develop as normally as possible.
Myth #3: “My child is not old enough to have an eye exam. They do not know their letters or numbers yet, and here is no way that they could follow the ‘better one or two’ part of the exam. ” The truth is that an eye doctor can test your child’s eyes and tell what their prescription is without them even having to say anything. Eye doctors use special lights and instruments to determine a child’s level of vision and this can be done at any age, even babies can have their eyes checked.
Vision screenings done at school or at the pediatrician’s office are very helpful in finding some vision problems, but they are no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam done by an eye doctor. It is important to have your child’s eyes checked before the school year begins to make sure they can perform at their very best. Many times vision related issues can be the reason why a child is not performing well in school.
One of the best ways to ensure your child’s success in the upcoming school year is to have their eyes examined before they head back to the books. You may be surprised at how well or how poor your child is actually seeing. Please read Part II of this article in the next Back to School Issue of Union County Weekly on August 9th to learn more about your child’s vision.
In part one of this series, I cleared up some common myths about children’s vision and eye exams for young people. Children experience much of the world through their eyes. With school getting ready to start in a few weeks, it is very important that children have the best chance at learning by insuring that they are seeing as well possible. It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his or her eyes.
A child’s eyes are constantly in use in school with reading, writing, computer work, and chalkboard/smart-board work. There are several basic visual skills that are needed to have success in school. It is commonly known that children need to have good vision to see clearly at distance, intermediate, and up close for the variety of activities that take place in a classroom. However, they must also have good eye focusing ability. This is the eye’s ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change. For example, when the teacher is writing on the board and the child is taking notes, they are looking from the distance object on the board to their notebook that is close to them on their desk and then back to the distant object on the board. Children’s eyes must also be able to have good eye tracking, which is the ability to keep the eyes on a target when looking from one object to another, like moving the eyes along words on a page while reading. Eye teaming is also important for visual success in learning. This is the ability for both eyes to coordinate together when moving along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports. Visual perception is the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas to understand what is read. So as you can see, there are many visual skills that have to be working for a child to do well in school.
If any of these visual skills are lacking or they are not functioning properly, a child may have to work harder. This often leads to headaches, eye strain and fatigue. Frequent headaches, especially during or right after school are a very common sign of poor vision in a child. Some other common signs that a child is having trouble with their eyes include frequent eye rubbing, frequent blinking, covering one eye, or consistently tilting the head to one side. A short attention span or avoidance of reading or other close activities can even be a sign of poor vision. If a child holds reading material really close to their face or they lose their place a lot when they read, they may be having trouble with their eyes. Eye muscles may not be functioning well and a child may have an eye that turns in or out or they may report that they are seeing double. Visual perception may be the issue if they have difficulty in remembering what he or she has read.
Common problems found in eye exams in children include: near-sightedness (child can see close object, but not far away objects), far-sightedness (child can see far away objects, but not close objects), poor focusing (often far-sighted children have difficulty focusing from distance to near), amblyopia (also known as lazy eye, one eye can’t see as well as the other, so they brain ignores the weak eye and only uses the eye that sees well), and strabismus (eye turns in or out). These conditions and the vision skills needed for success in school are evaluated and diagnosed in an eye exam. It is important to remember that not all of these issues can be found in a vision screening; therefore, children should have an eye exam by an eye doctor. The earlier a vision problem is detected and treated, the more likely treatment will be successful. When it is necessary, the eye doctor can prescribe treatment including eyeglasses, contact lenses, or vision therapy to correct vision problems.