By Nicole Flesvig Bruland
As summer winds down, parents and kids begin making their Back-to-School checklists. Just thinking about the back-to-school craziness of shopping and doctor appointments is enough to make any parent cringe and any kid wish for a few more weeks of summer. While taking care of health needs, such as required immunizations, it’s also a good idea to have your child’s vision checked. August is also Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and a perfect time to get your child’s vision in shape before the start of the school year. Although your family physician or pediatrician will conduct a basic eye exam at the annual check-up, there are problems that this type of exam may not reveal. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that kids also visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam. A child’s vision may change significantly from ages 5-18. Because 80 percent of learning in early childhood is visual, eye health can be critical to overall academic achievement. In fact, recent research shows that eye issues may contribute to behavioral and learning problems. In the absence of a comprehensive visual exam, these issues may be misdiagnosed and mistaken for ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, or other behavioral issues.
Small screens can equal big problems
Nowadays, kids not only read books at school, they also spend large amounts of time looking at computer and projection screens, televisions, and smart boards. Add to that the potential for further eye fatigue at home from various handheld tablets and portable video games (iPad, Kindle, or Nintendo DS, anyone?) the amount of eye strain on our children is vastly different from what we, as parents, experienced as kids. The most common vision problem in children is nearsightedness, or myopia, with farsightedness and astigmatism running a close second. Issues with eye fatigue, focusing, tracking, and coordination may also affect behavior and school performance.
About two years ago, I noticed that son was rubbing his eyes, excessively blinking, and even closing his left eye more than the right. It seemed that all of this had come out of nowhere. In reality, it had probably begun earlier, but was only noticed when the symptoms became physical in nature. At about the same time, I also noticed that he was more irritable than usual. After taking him to see our family physician, it was recommended that we see an ophthalmologist. Within a few days, my son had a diagnosis of far-sightedness and two new pairs of glasses, one for home and another for school. While his issue is not severe and his prescription is not too strong, the problems he was experiencing were significant enough to affect his physical and emotional behavior. Once he had his new glasses, he was back on track at school and at home.
If a child can’t see well, the ability to read and follow what is happening in class is greatly reduced. When this happens, concentration and self esteem can be affected, resulting in the child in acting out due to frustration. Suddenly, not only is the child affected, but so is everyone around him, from family to teachers and classmates. Even after having your child’s eyes examined annually via a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, parents should keep an eye out for any conditions which may develop between annual check-ups. If your child experiences the following, see an eye health professional:
- Excessive or frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Covering one eye
- The iris/pupil of eye seems lazy and off center
- Double vision
- Frequent headaches
- Short attention span
- Avoiding reading assignments
- Holding reading materials close to the face
- Difficulty remembering or understanding what she has read
- Losing place when reading
Maintaining good eye health is an important part of a happy, healthy life. Remember to schedule an annual eye exam for your family and discuss any concerns with your family physician.
About the Author
Nicole Flesvig Bruland is a mom, a writer, and a 20-year education professional. She is also the founder and director of Global Kids Learning Adventures and Fleur de Lys Language Academy in Naples, FL. In her free time, Nicole loves to travel with her husband and two sons. To learn more about Nicole, visit: www.GlobalKidsLearningAdventures.com.
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