According to the American Optometric Association, 80 percent of what a child learns is through his or her eyes. As you plan back-to-school immunizations, shopping and class orientation, schedule an appointment for your child to receive a comprehensive eye examination.
August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Children face unique eye health challenges, including injury, infection, reading difficulties and nearsightedness. Parents, caregivers and teachers should watch for these signs of possible vision loss in a child:
- 3D movies: Difficulty viewing 3D movies can be a sign of underlying vision issues since viewing this kind of content requires eyes to process information as a team.
- Squinting while reading or watching television: Ask your child if the text or screen is blurry or if reading gives them a headache. A “yes” answer could be an indication of an underlying vision problem.
- Difficulty hitting or catching a ball: If your child regularly misses or drops the ball, schedule an eye exam. Vision impairment might be impacting hand-eye coordination. Lazy eye, otherwise known as amblyopia, can impact depth perception and make it difficult to assess objects in front of you.
Another factor that can affect a child’s eye health – and adult eye health – is digital eye strain, which is caused by frequent or prolonged use of computers, smartphones or tablets. It’s good to practice the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away.
Remember that a school’s vision screening does not look for the same problems that a comprehensive eye exam does. A child’s first comprehensive eye exam should occur between 6 months and 12 months, again at age 3 and before entering school at age 5 or 6. A visit to an eye health professional can help detect conditions such as crossed eyes (strabismus), lazy eye, nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism early, before visual development and learning is affected. Treatment may include glasses, patching and/or eye exercises.
Early detection of vision problems is crucial, as untreated vision problems can impair development, affect learning, and possibly lead to permanent vision loss. Make an appointment with your child’s eye doctor now to ensure your child is ready for school and ready to learn.