Do you have kids headed back to school? Study on this: ten percent of preschoolers and one in four school-age children have an uncorrected vision problem. Vision problems can have a profound effect on how children learn and develop, and school eye screenings are not enough. Eye screenings can be useful, but did you know that up to 75% of vision problems are missed in a regular school screening? This is because a screening is not a comprehensive eye exam, which not only tests for visual acuity, but also tests that your child’s eyes move together correctly and checks the structure and health of the eyes.
Since 80% of learning is achieved through vision, it is very important for childhood eye conditions to be diagnosed as soon as possible and treated; also, children are more responsive when treatment begins early. Myopia (nearsightedness) is the most common vision problem in children, but also common is amblyopia, also called “lazy eye”, where decreased visual acuity is present in one or both eyes (although both eyes being affected is rare) due to abnormal visual development early in life. The weaker eye may wander inward or outward, but sometimes only an eye exam can detect it. Children can also suffer from hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism, color blindness, or conditions like convergence insufficiency, focusing problems, or issues with eye teaming, which can affect a child’s ability to comfortably align or focus their eyes for reading or other near work, change focus between near and distant points for sports or reading a blackboard, or can affect hand-eye coordination and depth perception.
However, your child should have a regular eye exam whether or not they appear to have any problems. Visual problems can easily develop in a shortened time frame because children are growing quickly, so an eye exam from two or three years ago may not be accurate, and, as mentioned before, it is inadvisable to rely on screenings alone. Additionally, kids often do not realize they have a problem with their eyesight because they do not know what correct vision looks like. If their vision is blurry, they think that is normal, and it is unlikely that they would talk to a parent or teacher about it. It is up to us as adults to notice if the children in our care might be having vision problems. Some symptoms to keep in mind:
- Short attention span for reading or schoolwork;
- Squinting at blackboards or objects further away;
- Headaches and/or eye strain;
- Excessive blinking or rubbing eyes;
- Poor reading comprehension and/or difficulty remembering what was read;
- Covering one eye;
- Poor hand-eye coordination;
- Holding reading materials close to the face.
A child with an undiagnosed and uncorrected vision condition can be affected academically, athletically, and socially. Some of the symptoms above mirror those of ADHD and in fact, a number of children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD when really they are experiencing an untreated vision problem. This can be very frustrating for them, and since it is hard for a child to articulate this, it could lead to a kid disengaging from those around them, from their education, and even cause or intensify behavioral issues.
Even if you have not noticed any vision problems with your child, as you check off the items to get them ready for school, like school supplies, new clothes, and a backpack, don’t forget to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye health evaluation. At Midwest Eye Consultants, we look forward to seeing you and caring for your kid’s vision so they can live their best life both in school and out. Click below to schedule an exam today!