When K-12 Academic Challenges Arise, This Exam is Essential

The American Optometric Association reports that 1 in 4 children have a vision issue that negatively impacts learning. Even children with “perfect vision” can still struggle academically because other aspects of the visual system are not perfect. This makes 20/20 vision only one measure of the visual system. If the whole visual system is not functioning properly our kids may be missing out since 80% of all learning is visual! This makes a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist essential for all children especially those experiencing learning issues.

When a child enters the classroom, they rely on basic visual skills to learn effectively. When one or more of these skills, like eye teaming or focusing, are not properly functioning learning becomes more effortful and often the child can’t keep up with the pace. As a child moves through each grade, the visual demands are greater as they take on more reading, writing, smaller print, higher standards of work, longer lectures, and more general stress. With the increase of these academic demands, it’s important to immediately address any suspected learning challenges with a comprehensive eye exam.

In fact, a comprehensive eye exam can prevent misdiagnosis or aid in diagnosis of other learning challenges like ADHD or dyslexia. Through a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can identify issues beyond refractive problems like nearsightedness. In fact, eye teaming and tracking issues are frequently seen in children with other learning disorders. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of the eye issues often help the child deal with the other learning issues.

Vision screeners that take place in schools, online or with a pediatrician are NOT a sufficient replacement for a comprehensive eye exam. The American Optometric Association reports that, “Even the most sophisticated vision screening tools, administered by the most highly trained screeners, miss one-third of children with eye or vision disorders.” That’s why optometrists recommend that students who have passed a vision screening still get a comprehensive eye exam for a full look into the child’s visual system.

Signs that may indicate a child has a vision problem include:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
  • Short attention span
  • Avoiding reading and other close activities
  • Regular headaches
  • Covering one eye
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Holding reading materials close to the face
  • An eye turning in or out
  • Seeing double
  • Losing place when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Complaints of discomfort and fatigue1

Colorado’s doctors of optometry recommend that your child follows the schedule below for comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor for proper pediatric eye care. This schedule ensures that the child’s visual system is hitting developmental milestones as they approach and participate in classroom learning.

Children’s Eye Exam Schedule:

  • 6 Months: First eye exam w/ optometrist (No-cost eye exams for infants 6-12 months through the InfantSEE national public health program)
  • 3 Years: Second eye exam w/ optometrist
  • 5 Years: Third eye exam w/ optometrist
  • 6+ Years: After age 5 eye exams should continue every 2 years for low-risk children (unless otherwise recommended by an optometrist).

1 https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-health-for-life/school-aged-vision?sso=y

Signs a Child May Need Vision Therapy

Did you know that a child can have 20/20 vision (“perfect vision”) and still experience visual issues? This is because some individuals can see 20/20 through each eye, but the eyes don’t necessarily work well together to create a clear picture. Vision therapy can help improve the muscular systems of the eye for better teaming, tracking and focusing. It can also improve the eye-brain connection so that the child can interpret visual information more effectively. These therapies allow for proper overall visual development and can improve classroom learning.

Children are often not aware that they are experiencing vision challenges since they don’t have a point of reference for optimal functional vision. This makes regular comprehensive eye exams important for children as they approach and advance through classroom learning.

Misdiagnosis of visual challenges is also common, and these visual issues can look similar to the following ADHD symptoms:

  • Reading issues
  • Poor attention span in school
  • Frequent mistakes
  • Difficulty doing and completing schoolwork

The best way to determine if these academic challenges are due to visual issues is to see an optometrist who will assess how well the child’s eyes work together. Additionally, some individuals who have ADHD also have vision issues that can compound the ADHD symptoms when not addressed. This makes seeing an eye doctor important to fully understand if vision therapy can assist in alleviating some of the symptoms.

Symptoms that may indicate a need for vision therapy:

  • Skips words or lines when reading
  • Rubs eyes when reading or doing near work
  • Closes one eye with reading or near work
  • Holds reading material close to face or tilts head or paper
  • Sits close to the TV
  • Headaches from reading or homework
  • Good word reader, but poor reading comprehension
  • Poor handwriting
  • Blurred vision when transitioning from far to near vision
  • Homework takes a long time or is highly frustrating
  • Short attention span for schoolwork or reading

Colorado’s doctors of optometry recommend a comprehensive eye exam if a child is experiencing one or more of these symptoms. Early identification and intervention are key in preventing impact on school performance and student confidence. Vision therapy can also help avoid or improve outcomes of surgical intervention. If you think your child may need vision therapy, call your local optometrist for an appointment today or search for a qualified Colorado optometrist here.

What Parents Need to Know About Nearsightedness Prevention for Children

Nearsightedness (Myopia) among children has been rapidly increasing for decades, yet the risks and treatment are widely misunderstood by parents and caregivers. Prevention and early detection are two keys to controlling this epidemic impacting children’s vision, development and classroom learning.

What is nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a vision condition that impacts a child’s ability to see objects at a distance because the shape of the eyeball is too long, or the cornea is too curved. Nearsightedness is not an eye disease, but an imperfection in the eye known as a refractive error. The condition typically begins in childhood and often progresses over time as the child grows. Roughly, 41% of Americans are nearsighted as opposed to 25% in 1971.1 This upward trend exists throughout Colorado and across the world.

Early Detection and Slowing Progression

Doctors of optometry agree that the best way to slow myopia progression and possibly prevent it includes a combination of:

  1. Consistent comprehensive eye exams for children even without symptoms. Children should have their eyes examined by an eye doctor to get a full look at their eye health at 12 months, 3 years, 5 years of age and then every year for low-risk kids. These regular exams give your child the best chance at early detection and treatment to slow or correct nearsightedness.
  2. Daily time outdoors has been shown to delay the onset of myopia.
  3. Minimize screen time as this has been linked to increase in progression.
  4. If one or both parents are nearsighted their child is at higher risk, making it not possible to prevent, but the progression of the condition can often be slowed with proper detection and treatment.

Symptoms

Below are common symptoms for children experiencing nearsightedness. Keep in mind that many children don’t complain of symptoms and aren’t aware they are having a visual challenge. This makes a comprehensive eye exam key for early detection.

  • Blurry vision when trying to focus on distant objects.
  • Squinting to read far away text.
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding screens, books or objects close to the face.
  • Regular headaches.

Risks of Untreated Nearsightedness

It is important for caregivers to understand that children with moderate nearsightedness are at risk for additional serious eye conditions as adults. Such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal Detachment
  • Macular Degeneration

Treatment

Once nearsightedness begins it cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed. The child’s distance vision should be fully corrected with glasses and/or contacts. Additional treatments to slow progression can include:

Prescribed eye drops
These drops are administered daily to slow progression of myopia.

Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT)
Used in children and adults, CRT uses contact lenses that are worn only at night to reshape the cornea during sleep. No lenses or minimal correction is worn during the day. It takes about 2 weeks get the full effect and they need to be work every night.

Multifocal contact lenses
These unique contact lenses have different prescriptions in different locations of the lens. Often these are daily disposable contact lenses that children learn quickly to insert and remove.

References

1 https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/myopia-close-look-efforts-turn-back-growing-problem#:~:text=As%20a%20result%2C%20people%20with,from%2025%20percent%20in%201971.

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