Children need many skills for effective learning. Being able to see clearly and comfortably is one of the most important abilities for success at school, as it is estimated that 80% of the learning that a child does happens through his or her eyes. As children graduate to different levels of learning, the visual demands expected of them increase – font size becomes smaller, the amount of time reading and studying increases, and more school work/homework increases the strain on the child’s eyes. If the visual skills and abilities are not functioning properly, education can suffer because learning turns into a difficult and stressful task.
Children may not have the experience to know that they are having trouble with their vision, and may not specifically complain about their eyes or their ability to see. However, children might:
- Avoid reading and other close work
- Attempt to do the work, but struggle with comprehension and efficiency
- Experience discomfort, tiredness, and short attention spans
These undetected vision problems can sometimes be confused with symptoms of other learning disorders/disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia.
Other signs that might indicate your child has a vision problem include:
- Squinting, or moving close to objects to see them clearly
- Excessive eye rubbing or blinking
- Frequent headaches
- Covering one eye, or tilting the head to one side
- Holding reading materials very close to the face
- An eye turning in or out (“crossed eyes”), or double vision
- Losing place when reading, difficulty remembering what was read
Because children have many visual demands in the classroom – and because their bodies are growing rapidly – it is important to have a comprehensive eye exam performed yearly (or sooner if any vision changes are noticed). In my experience, it is not uncommon that a child may be seeing 20/20 in both eyes one year, and the following year, vision can become worse than 20/100 – all while the child is reporting they “see just fine”. I have also seen many instances where a child might have 20/20 vision in one eye – but extremely poor vision in the other eye – leading to problems with depth perception, and if not corrected, the development of a “lazy eye”.
There is much more to vision than the ability to see clearly, or “20/20” vision. Children also need to be able to focus their eyes, and use their eyes together as a team. Every child needs the following visual abilities in order to learn and be able to comprehend what they read and observe:
- Visual Acuity – the ability to see clearly at all distances (far: whiteboard/overhead screens, intermediate: computer, near: reading/homework)
- Eye Focusing – the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision when looking from near to far or vice versa (like changing focus from the distance whiteboard to books/reading material on the desk)
- Eye Tracking – the ability to keep the eyes on target while moving (like reading words across a page)
- Eye Teaming – the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together (judge distances, depth perception)
- Visual perception – the ability to organize images seen (such as letters on a paper) into words and ideas to understand and remember what was read
- Hand-Eye Coordination – the ability to use visual information to direct the hands what to do (like when writing or playing sports)
The summer months are the best time to bring your children to your eye doctor for a comprehensive vision exam. If vision problems are detected, or their prescription changes, we are able to get the necessary glasses for your child before school begins. Also, a dilation can be performed to check the health inside the eye (which causes temporary blurry vision of 4-6 hours) – without interfering with any school work your child may need to complete (as during the school year).
In my office, we offer the latest in technology for your child’s visual needs – UV protecting and impact resistant lenses, high quality frames with 1 year warranty, and superior anti-glare coatings to reduce eyestrain and glare. We are currently accepting new patients, and would be happy to address the vision needs of your entire family. Ask me about the latest in research on controlling myopia (near-sighted) progression in children with contact lenses – please stop by or call for an appointment!
-Dr. Mika Fu