As our children are going back to school its important to set them up for success along the way. 80% of learning happens through vision, thus making it easy to mistake vision problems with learning. School vision screening usually only checks for clear distance vision, which will not ensure that a child is reading things up close comfortably and clearly or that the eyes are healthy. In the chaos of the first few weeks of school, it's always good to keep these thing in mind to make sure that our kids will get the most out of the coming school year.
1.) Seeing well at far distances isn't the same as having good vision.
Many children are farsighted in their formative years, meaning they see distant objects with astonishing clarity. However, often parents confuse having great distance sight for having good overall vision. Ideally, light enters the pupil and converges onto the retina in the back of the eye. However, in most people, light will focus in front of or behind the retina, making a person near-sighted or far-sighted, respectively.
With increased use of electronic devises in children, it is becoming less and less likely that a person has perfect vision. So even though your child can see the street signs, the smart-board and even spot a plane from very far away in the sky, it doesn't mean that they can focus on the words in a book without fatigue or look at a computer screen without getting headaches.
2.) Sunglasses are more important now than they ever will be.
82% of UV radiation damage happens before the age of 20. Because the natural lenses inside your eyes thicken with each passing year, a child's eye is 70% more permeable to damaging UV rays than an adult's. UV rays can cause damage to the front of the eye, cause cataracts, and retinal damage. This damage is most often irreversible.
It is important to invest in a good pair of sunglasses for optimal protection. Sunglasses are only regulated in optical shops so although a cute pair of sunglasses from a gas station may have a sticker that says “100% UV Protection”, there's no way to guarantee that this is accurate. It is not uncommon for these sunglasses to have a UV protective coating that melts off in the heat, comes off during cleaning or to not have a coating at all. Without a UV coating, the eye is at an even greater risk because the pupil is dilated under the tinted lenses, but with no protective coating this allows even more UV to enter the eye. Wearing poorly made lenses is more dangerous than wearing no lenses at all.
3.) Eye health is just as important as seeing well.
Optometrists test much more than your child's vision. Overall health of the eye should be tested annually to ensure the prevention and/or treatment of diseases or disorders of the eye. Catching these things early is imperative, especially when it comes to young children whose eyes are still developing. Taking great care of their eyes while young will set them up for a lifetime of good vision and eye health
4.) A lot of problems in school can be solved with a good pair of glasses.
25% of children who struggle in school are simply in need of glasses. Often, even a child who appears to see well can find that looking at things up close is uncomfortable. Here are some signs to look for that may indicate that your child is having problems with their vision:
- Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
- Losing their place while reading
- Squinting or tilting their head
- Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
- Receiving lower grades than usual
- Avoiding activities that are associated with looking up close OR far away (such as avoiding reading and using the computer, or avoiding sports and other recreational activities).
- Poor hand-eye coordination
If you notice any of these behaviors in your kids, it's a good idea to get them into the optometrist as soon as possible. Glasses are an easy fix.
5.) Starting young is important.
There's a lot of misconception about when to start scheduling children for their yearly eye exams. Ideally exams should start at 6 months old. Even though these babies are too young to read letters or shapes, it gives their optometrist the opportunity to check the overall health and development of their eyes.
Eye issues have many different manifestations. Children don't know that their vision is blurry as blurry vision may appear normal to them. Thus, it is more important than ever that their eyes be checked annually to make sure they have healthy eyes for life!