Children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life, academically, socially, and athletically. High-quality eye care can break down these barriers and help enable your children to reach their highest potential.
Vision doesn’t just happen. A child’s brain learns how to use eyes to see, just like it learns how to use legs to walk or a mouth to form words. The longer a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more a child’s brain learns to accommodate the vision problem.
That’s why a comprehensive eye examination is so important for children. Early detection and treatment provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems, so your child can learn to see clearly. Make sure your child has the best possible tools to learn successfully.
Birth to 24 Months of Age
Babies learn to see over a period of time, much like they learn to walk and talk. They are not born with all the visual abilities they need in life. The ability to focus their eyes, move them accurately, and use them together as a team must be learned. Also, they need to learn how to use the visual information the eyes send to their brain in order to understand the world around them and interact with it appropriately.
From birth, babies begin exploring the wonders in the world with their eyes. Even before they learn to reach and grab with their hands or crawl and sit-up, their eyes are providing information and stimulation important for their development.
Healthy eyes and good vision play a critical role in how infants and children learn to see. Eye and vision problems in infants can cause developmental delays. It is important to detect any problems early to ensure babies have the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn.
Parents play an important role in helping to assure their child’s eyes and vision can develop properly. Steps that any parent should take include:
Preschool Vision: 2 to 5 Years of Age
Every experience a preschooler has is an opportunity for growth and development. They use their vision to guide other learning experiences. From ages 2 to 5, a child will be fine-tuning the visual abilities gained during infancy and developing new ones.
Stacking building blocks, rolling a ball back and forth, coloring, drawing, cutting, or assembling lock-together toys all help improve important visual skills. Preschoolers depend on their vision to learn tasks that will prepare them for school. They are developing the visually-guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and visual perceptual abilities necessary to learn to read and write.
Steps taken at this age to help ensure vision is developing normally can provide a child with a good “head start” for school. Preschoolers are eager to draw and look at pictures. Also, reading to young children is important to help them develop strong visualization skills as they “picture” the story in their minds.
This is also the time when parents need to be alert for the presence of vision problems like crossed eyes or lazy eye. These conditions often develop at this age. Crossed eyes or strabismus involves one or both eyes turning inward or outward. Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is a lack of clear vision in one eye, which can’t be fully corrected with eyeglasses. Lazy eye often develops as a result of crossed eyes, but may occur without noticeable signs.
In addition, parents should watch their child for indication of any delays in development, which may signal the presence of a vision problem. Difficulty with recognition of colors, shapes, letters and numbers can occur if there is a vision problem.
The preschool years are a time for developing the visual abilities that a child will need in school and throughout his or her life. Steps taken during these years to help ensure vision is developing normally can provide a child with a good “head start” for school.
According to the American Public Health Association, about 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems. However, children this age generally will not voice complaints about their eyes.
Parents should watch for signs that may indicate a vision problem, including:
School Aged Vision: 6 to 18 years of Age
A child needs many abilities to succeed in school. Good vision is a key. It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes. Reading, writing, chalkboard work, and using computers are among the visual tasks students perform daily. A child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. When his or her vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.
As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities.
The school years are a very important time in every child’s life. All parents want to see their children do well in school and most parents do all they can to provide them with the best educational opportunities. But too often one important learning tool may be overlooked – a child’s vision.
When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically:
Some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviors of hyperactivity and distractibility. These children are often labeled as having “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD). However, undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children may be mislabeled as having ADHD when, in fact, they have an undetected vision problem.
Because vision may change frequently during the school years, regular eye and vision care is important. The most common vision problem is nearsightedness or myopia. However, some children have other forms of refractive error like farsightedness and astigmatism. In addition, the existence of eye focusing, eye tracking and eye coordination problems may affect school and sports performance.
Eyeglasses or contact lenses may provide the needed correction for many vision problems. However, a program of vision therapy may also be needed to help develop or enhance vision skills.