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Tuesday
Mar062012

Children's Vision

A guide to school age vision

Good vision equals a head start on learning

Ask parents what their top priorities are for their children and you are bound to hear one answer consistently. That answer? A good education. That means a good school, a great teacher and good vision. Yes, good vision!

Did You Know? Classroom learning is 80% visual, which points clearly to the idea that if a student isn’t seeing well, they’re not performing up to their potential. Right now almost 25% of children have undetected vision problems that are holding them back. Don’t take the fact that your child can see every bird in the sky as reassurance that their vision skills are adequately developed – it could be an assumption that affects how well they are able to learn. Maturing and changing eyes need to be assessed.

Good news it’s easy to make sure your child is seeing efficiently and clearly. The first step in ensuring your child has all the vision skills they need is to see an optometrist for a thorough (and painless) eye health examination. It’s vital that your child has the basic vision skills – these include, in both technical terms and parent speak:

  • Near Vision, or the ability to see clearly and comfortably at 25 – 30 cms
  • Distance Vision, or the ability to see well beyond arm’s reach
  • Binocular Coordination, or the ability of the eyes to work together
  • Eye Movement Skills, which enable the eyes to aim accurately, move smoothly across a page and shift quickly from one object to another
  • Focusing Skills, which enable both eyes to accurately focus at the proper distance and to see clearly and to change focus quickly (example, from desk to chalkboard and back)
  • Peripheral Awareness, or the ability to be aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead
  • Eye/Hand Coordination, or the ability to use the eyes and hands together

If any of these skills are lacking your child will try to compensate by working harder, and may get frustrated and suffer headaches, fatigue and other eye strain symptoms.

20/20? Nice, but it doesn’t mean perfect vision

Don’t assume your child has good vision because they pass a vision screening with 20/20. A 20/20 score means only that a child can see at 20 feet what they should be able to. It does not relate to any of the other vision skills needed for learning and is not a guarantee that your child’s eyes are healthy and disease free. Visual screenings are not a substitute for a thorough eye examination by an optometrist.

Be alert for symptoms

Children rarely complain of vision problems, or are even aware of them. Indeed, they may appear to see perfectly well, often pointing things out to you before you see them, but don’t get lulled into thinking everything is okay. In addition to a regular eye health check-up, look for everyday signs that your child may need help:

  • performs below their school potential
  • avoids close work or dislikes reading
  • loses his or her place while reading
  • omits or confuses small words when reading
  • uses finger to maintain place while reading
  • makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • holds reading material closer than usual
  • turns or tilts head to use only one eye
  • has red, itchy or watery eyes
  • has frequent headaches

 

What’s the difference between a sight test and a thorough eye exam?

A sight test simply determines what your child can see at a fixed distance. An optometrist on the other hand examines all developing vision skills (the ones essential for optimum school success) and eye health. A thorough eye examination includes:

  • a review of your child’s health and vision history
  • a comprehensive, painless and non-invasive eye health examination to rule out any ocular disease
  • tests for visual acuity, refractive errors, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, crossed-eyes, eye coordination, focusing ability, eye movement control, depthperception and colour vision
  • a suggested treatment plan where needed

If your child’s eyes need help

After assessing your child’s visual system, your optometrist will recommend a treatment plan that may include glasses, contact lenses, vision therapy or medications. In some cases, preventative measures will be recommended to meet visual demands and prevent eyestrain (such as wearing mild prescription glasses for schoolwork, television viewing, or computer use).