The following guest post written by Nicole Marr, author of “Carrots Make You Blind?!?!” and GrudgeMom. Nicole blogs about her daughter’s journey with congenital cataracts, and provides other resources on children’s vision problems. Disclaimer: Nicole Marr is not a physician and the following post is for informational purposes only – always consult a medical professional for medical advice.
August is National Children’s Vision & Learning Month, and while your child may not be doing a lot of learning in August, he should be in a prime position to learn when the school doors open come September.
Vision Problems and Learning
Most schools do a cursory check of your child’s vision using the 20/20 type of test – the chart with the big E on it. This test only measures distance vision, and doesn’t look for coordination between the eyes or adjusting between near and far vision.
If a child has trouble with their vision, it can affect their schoolwork, most notably with their reading. Quite often, children who have trouble reading do not have any difficulties with comprehension or speech. They have difficulty seeing what is literally right in front of them – their textbooks or work books.
They need clear vision to differentiate between the letters. And if their eyes do not cooperate with each other, the lines of text on a page may jump around. They may also face trouble when having to switch between the work on their desk and what the teacher is writing on the blackboard. This adjustment should be seamless, but if your child has a vision problem it may take a few seconds.
When children have undetected vision problems, they learn to cope with them, and not necessarily in a good way. With a child who can’t switch between near and far vision, they may stop looking up at the blackboard. They may rely on what the teacher is saying and missing what is being written.
Undetected problems can also cause normally bright and cheerful children to become frustrated at school and even mimic behavioral problems like ADD or ADHD. Diagnoses of ADD/ADHD depend on a subjective set of characteristics, since there is no definitive test for them. But the characteristics are also symptomatic of problems children have with their eyes working together as a pair. They have trouble focusing up close – reading and writing, causing them to “lose focus” and look away from their schoolwork. Looking away is not a conscious decision. Their eyes know something is wrong, and it is automatic to look up to refocus. If your child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, you may consider getting their vision assessed before you start medication.
Other common misdiagnoses are dyslexia and learning disorders, usually mistaken for convergence insufficiency. This issue also affects close work and causes eyestrain, blurry vision, double vision and sometimes headaches. It is worth mentioning that you can still pass a 20/20 vision test and have convergence insufficiency. With any diagnosis, spend the extra time to have your child’s vision tested.
Signs of Vision Problems
Children should have their eyes tested as a newborn, during their first year, at 3.5 years and at 5 years. If you see any of the following symptoms make an appointment to get your child’s eyes tested:
- rubbing their eyes often
- red eyes
- teary eyes
- misalignment of the eyes
- pupil is not purely black
- double vision
- light sensitive
- trouble seeing objects far away, like text on a blackboard
- trouble following an object without turning her head (tracking)
- using a finger to keep his place when reading (after learning to read)
- poor focusing
- closing one eye to perform tasks
- difficulty reading
Of course, if you have any other reason to believe there is a problem, they should see a doctor. Give them every advantage you can, but first of all, make sure they can see so they are able to learn.