A new school year is right on top of us once again, and everyone, from parents and students, to teachers and principals, are preparing for exciting new adventures and experiences. Parents should remember, however, that children may be in for a school year full of frustration and set backs if they are not prepared with proper vision. While good schools, good teachers and good friends are essential ingredients for a great learning experience, without good vision to match, your child may have a hard time learning anything at all, no matter the quality of everything else.” cautions Dr. Vincent Penza of City Optometry in San Francisco, California. “Furthermore, children are not likely to recognize vision problems or report them, making it the responsibility of parents and teachers to recognize signs of visual problems before they begin to impact learning.”
Being successful in school requires a number of eyesight skills that need to be checked prior to the start of school. Near sight is the ability of a person to see clearly at around 10 inches in front of him or herself. This skill is obviously important for practicing skills such reading and writing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, distance vision refers to the ability to see clearly and comfortably beyond arm’s reach. This is an important skill that will allow your child to properly see the board in the classroom, as well as take in learning opportunities that may be in the range of distance vision. Additionally, focusing skills, peripheral awareness and eye-hand coordination are also important.
Another extremely important skill is known as binocular vision. Our eyes are designed to work together. When your child looks at an image close up, for instance when reading words on a page, each eye records its own image, each one being slightly different from the other. These two images are then sent to the brain, where they are translated into a single, unified image. This remarkable ability is what gives us depth perception, and is essential for your child's successful participation in many exciting and interesting extra-curricular activities.
It is your job, as a parent, to keep an eye out for symptoms that may hint at vision or visual processing problems. A few examples of common conditions that may affect your child's ability to learn are below:
Headaches while reading or doing other close work, exhibiting a short attention span during visual tasks, and/or using a finger to guide reading, are all sings of issues with visual tracking and may hint at a visual condition known as convergence insufficiency. This refers to a condition in which the eyes have a hard time converging on the same point close up, often causing the words to seem to move while your child is reading.
Your child's eyes also may seem not to move together properly, or may not face the same direction. Your child may also tilt his or her head or squint in order to see better, all of these possibly indicating a condition called Strabismus, which results from muscles in the eyes being misaligned or underdeveloped. Severe difficulty may result, and more significant problems, including loss of depth perception, may develop if the condition is in not treated promptly. Dr. Penza adds, “Difficulty remembering or identifying shapes, difficulty remembering what was read, excessive blinking or rubbing of the eyes, or placing of the head very close to the book or desk when reading or writing are all possible signs of vision difficulty which need to be investigated.”
Because changes in your child’s vision can occur without you or your child noticing them, your child should visit the eye doctor every year or more frequently if specific problems or risk factors exist. Remember, school vision or pediatrician’s screenings are good, but they are not a substitute for a thorough eye exam.
For more information, contact Dr. Penza today!