As summer vacation winds down, parents always have a long list of things to do to prepare for the beginning of a new school year. However, most parents overlook getting their child’s eyes examined for any visual challenges. Eye care professionals are increasingly concerned about the growing number of undiagnosed eye conditions affecting children’s performance in school. A comprehensive exam can help identify your child’s visual problem in the early stages. This is key because children respond better to treatment when a problem is caught early. This is why it is crucial to get your child’s eyes checked out by a pediatric ophthalmologist before school reopens.
Signs of Vision Problems
Children with visual problems may not be able to tell that there is a vision problem because they may assume that the way they see is the way others see. They have to work harder to learn and comprehend their school work effectively. Children may experience eye strain, fatigue, discomfort, or headaches which is why parents and teachers must watch out for other symptoms like:
- Covering one eye
- Poor reading and comprehension
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent eye rubbing and blinking
- Slow or last to finish school work
- Holding reading materials close to the face or eyes
- Short attention span
- Difficulty remembering information they read
- Reading avoidance
- Fidgeting and looking away from school work
- Tilting the head to one side
- Double vision
- Cross eyes (strabismus) or lazy eyes
- Losing track or pace when reading
- Difficulty following an object
- Chronic eye tearing
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Chronic eye redness
- Poor focusing
- White pupil instead of black
- Misaligned eyes
Prescription glasses can help solve the issues mentioned above.
Vision problems and Learning
Research indicates that there is a strong connection between academic performance and vision. Whether you are writing or reading, about 80% of learning involves vision. An identified and uncorrected eye problem might be a remarkable health barrier to learning (HBL). For example, a nearsighted child can have difficulties understanding and catching up on class notes and lessons. In some cases, children with undetected vision problems are often misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia.
An early eye exam is vital because children require good eyesight for compelling reading and learning based on the following vision skills:
- Vision acuity: The ability to distinguish shapes and object details at a certain distance, for example, reading a book up close or viewing the chalkboard.
- Near vision/ Myopia: This means that objects far away look blurry. For example, your child moves closer to the computer or television.
- Hand-eye coordination: The ability to use vision and muscles to monitor and direct hands when performing tasks such as drawing, writing, or hitting a ball.
- Eye focusing skills: The ability of the eyes to rapidly and accurately maintain clear vision when bringing objects to sharp focus as the distance from the objects changes with no stress to the eyes.
- Peripheral awareness: The ability to see objects or movements not in your direct line of vision.
- Binocular vision: The ability to perceive depth and the relationship between objects.
- Visual perception: The ability of the brain to understand what the eyes see and remember what is seen.
- Eye tracking: The ability to maintain eyes on a target when looking from one object to the other. Symptoms may include frequent loss of place when reading along a printed page or skipping lines when reading.
- Recognition: The ability to differentiate letters like “d and b.”
The digital age has led to the incorporation of technology into the school’s curriculum. This may lead to exposure to blue light from computers, laptops, and phones, increasing their risk of developing vision problems. You may notice the following digital eye strain signs and symptoms:
- Eye fatigue
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Poor posture
- Excessively looking at the screen
- Low or high screen brightness
- Undetected vision conditions
Your optometrist may prescribe computer eyeglasses to prevent digital eye problems from arising.
Importance of Back to School Exams
Do not rely on your child’s school eye screening because most parents and teachers assume that if a child passes their eye test, they are good to go. A comprehensive eye exam is essential because it goes beyond 20/20 vision because your child can still have a vision problem.
The comprehensive eye exam involves checking for eye alignment(teaming), color blindness, eye focusing, eye coordination, ocular motility(tracking), depth perception, and the standard E-chart visual acuity test. The pediatric optometrist may also check the eye structures to check the eyes’ health and look out for any abnormalities.
Common vision problems in school-going children include nearsightedness(myopia), farsightedness(hyperopia), and astigmatism (irregularly curved cornea). An eye examination should be performed every year and more frequently if your child has a pre-existing eye problem, family history of pediatric eye condition, or medical conditions that might result in blindness.
Preparing Your Child for an Eye Exam
Schedule an eye exam to ensure your child does not have a vision problem that can affect their learning. A licensed and qualified pediatric optometrist will perform an annual back-to-school eye exam for comprehensive tests.
If your child has a vision problem, the issue can be detected and treated early before it gets worse. Inform your child that you will be taking them for an eye exam in advance to avoid making them feel anxious or nervous. You can try and explain what happens during the exam and why it is done. Inform them that they will be asked questions to look at and identify various objects, pictures, shapes, colors, or letters. Answer any questions they may ask reassuringly, and encourage them to say precisely what they see. Let them know that there are no wrong answers during their exam. Assure them you will be with them every step of the way. Take them to the eye specialist when they are happy, calm, and well rested since fatigue can affect the accuracy of the test results.
When Your Child Can Have an Eye Exam
Eye specialists recommend that a child’s first eye exam occur when they are 6 to 12 months of age to check whether their eyes are functioning normally. The second eye exam is recommended every year or at the age of 2 and once more before they begin school, then every one to two years after that.
Taking your child for an annual comprehensive eye exam is the best way to ensure that your child can see well during learning and other school activities. Listen and observe your child’s reading behavior to check for any vision problems early. If you notice your child might have a vision problem, get them the help they need as soon as possible. For more information contact Curtis R. Anderson, OD.