Vision problems put students at disadvantage

According to the American Optometric Association, up to 80% of what a child learns in school is processed through vision. And yet, if you pick any four kids out of a classroom, at least one of them is visually impaired. If these problems are not diagnosed, they can lead to poor academic performance. This, in turn, can have detrimental effects on a child’s self-esteem and social interactions.

It’s hard to see the world through someone else’s eyes, especially the eyes of a young child who doesn’t really understand the vision problem they are experiencing.  It can be difficult for children to communicate this to parents or teachers. But there are some clues that parents can watch for.  If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, you should schedule an optometry appointment:

  • Eyes moving independently of each other
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Headaches resulting from eye strain
  • Excessive blinking
  • Closing one eye or tilting the head to read
  • Crossed eyes
  • Eye rubbing
  • Lack of eye-hand coordination
  • Getting too close to a book or television
  • Excessive use of a finger to follow lines when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Reading slowly
  • Reversing letters or words

Vision and disability

In order to read and write, the eyes must perform a series of skills.  If even one of these skills is deficient, reading can become an embarrassing, exhausting struggle. Instead of developing a love of books, blurry vision, headaches, and words jumbling together can all cause a student to want to quit reading.

Too often, children who simply can’t see well enough are mistakenly assessed to have learning disabilities and other disorders.  Common misdiagnosis can include Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyslexia.

“Some of the behavior patterns of children with these issues can overlap with vision disorders,” said Jamie Speth, OD from GraceMed’s Ablah Family Clinic. “That’s why it’s really important to have the child’s eyes examined to assess for a visual component to the problem.”

Blurry vision isn’t always the issue

Common vision conditions are nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.  Nearsighted people need glasses to help them see far away. Those who are farsighted or have astigmatism can complain of blurry vision at both far and near distances. Double vision is another common complaint. Fortunately, these conditions can be corrected with glasses.

“It’s important to note that all vision problems don’t present with the complaint of blurry vision,” Dr. Speth explained. “For example, some children can have focusing problems where they may have 20/20 vision, but still need glasses to help their eyes relax.  Regular eye exams are therefore absolutely important to ensure that your child’s vision is not creating a roadblock to learning.”

Beyond the eye chart

A complete examination will go well beyond the eye chart most of us recognize.  “While it is important to measure the sharpness and clarity of your vision,” explains Jacquelyn Smith, OD from GraceMed’s Helen Galloway Clinic, “we also need to check things like eye tracking, focusing and ocular health. Each test gives us a little more information about the overall condition of your eyes.”

An eye examination is recommended for all children before entering school at age 5.  We also encourage you to do an examination each year thereafter because your child’s vision quality can change as they advance through the school years.

“It’s so critical to identify any potential issues as early as possible,” said Dr. Smith. “You want your child’s experience of school to be as positive as possible.  When they’re very young, they may be struggling to see, while the rest of the class is thriving. If an eye exam can get them on the road to restored vision, think of the long-term impact that can have on their lives.

GraceMed currently offers optometry services at our Helen Galloway and Ablah Family Clinics in Wichita, and at our Capitol Family Clinic in Topeka. If you would like to schedule an appointment, click here.