According to the American Public Health Association, 25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning. When these visual problems go undetected, it can not only interfere with academics but also lead to behavioral problems. In addition, vision based learning problems can be misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, and/or other learning disabilities.
Vision screenings in school are helpful and can uncover some basic problems, but these screenings are not enough. A comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist is needed, not only to check for 20/20 vision but also several other visual problems that a school screening cannot detect. For example, how the eyes are working together, focusing issues, depth perception, and the overall health of the eye.
It can be difficult to know if your child is having vision problems because they often can’t explain it. There are specific signs and symptoms to look out for that can help you detect a possible visual issue with your child. These include:
- Frequent headaches, especially after reading or near vision work
- Sits close to the TV or holds books too close
- Avoids reading
- Tilts head to one side
- Closes or covers one eye
- Frequent eye rubbing
- An eye turning in or out
- Low reading comprehension
- Loses place while reading
- Easily distracted, especially during reading or homework
It is estimated that 80% of learning occurs through the eyes. A child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play, and when vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports or other extra-curricular activities can suffer. If you notice any of the signs above or if you suspect your child may have a vision problem, consider a comprehensive eye examination.
Don’t forget…the American Optometric Association recommends a comprehensive eye exam at 6 months, 3 years of age, and before starting kindergarten. For school-aged children, an eye exam is recommended every 2 years if no vision correction is needed.
For more information, visit the College of Optometrists in Vision Development website at www.covd.org.