August 31, 2020
School is in, and many children will be experiencing a rite of passage common to several generations of students – a mandatory vision exam provided by their school district. Although this sounds good in theory, it turns out the eye test given to children at school is extremely limited. In fact, many school districts perform only one test, a distance vision screening. This test is designed to measure a child’s ability to see the blackboard clearly at the typical distance it is from their desk – generally a maximum of 20 feet. While this test is certainly important, it is far from comprehensive.
Also keep in mind that many vision screenings provided in schools are done by school nurses. These dedicated professionals have a wide base of knowledge in many aspects of your child’s health, but they rarely have the advanced education in the workings of the human eye required to conduct a complete vison exam properly. Your child may pass an eye test at school, but still struggle with visual motor skills, eye tracking skills or deficiencies with peripheral vision.
Although many parents believe children seldom have eye issues requiring correction at a very young age, it is possible that by the time a child has his or her first vision test in school, serious problems may already have impacted the child’s ability to learn. The American Optometric Association finds 2 out of 5 children have a vision issue that affects learning, and as many as 10 million American children have undiagnosed and/or untreated vision abnormalities. Your child needs to master 17 different visual skills to read, write, compute and even be successful in healthy sport activities. School screenings don’t cover any of these tasks, allowing many treatable conditions to hold back your child’s development. Comprehensive pediatric vision exams detect refraction errors and diagnose eye diseases as well as completing the basic screening provided by school tests.
Nearly 80% of learning is based on visual stimuli. Being able to see letters, numbers and shapes clearly is not enough to allow children to interpret what they see and understand what it means. When a child has poor visual function or an undiagnosed eye disorder, they may be incorrectly labeled as learning delayed or disabled. Their inability to master the physical skills needed to succeed can lead to frustration and a resistance to learning that can derail their entire academic career before they reach middle school. Untreated vision issues can result in a lack of confidence, poor self-esteem and teasing or bullying by other children.
Children with untreated vision issues may also mistakenly be diagnosed with other problems such as ADHD, or even placed on the autism spectrum. Children with these and other behavior-based diagnoses are often prescribed medications to address the issue, which will not be of any use at all to a child with a visual problem. It may, in fact, expose them to other risks caused by taking unnecessary medications.
To give your child the head start they’ll need in life, your optometrist should give him or her a first vision test between 6 and 12 months of age. The first months of life are when the human eye experiences a great amount of change and development, occasionally leaving it vulnerable to treatable deficiencies. Identifying these problems as soon as possible is essential to a child’s early learning activities. Between the ages of 3 and 5, your child should visit the eye doctor again to be on the lookout for issues that may have developed since the initial exam. Another comprehensive examination should be done right before your child begins kindergarten, and annually thereafter.
To set your child on the path to success, call 713-360-7095 to book an appointment with one of the leading Tanglewood/Galleria Area eye doctors. At Pro-Optix Eye Care, we treat our youngest patients with the respect and care they need to excel!
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