80% of information that a child processes comes through their eyes. Many visual problems are subtle and may not be picked up by parents, teachers or even school screenings. However poor vision can impact on children’s development in all areas – academic, sport and social.
There are various vision screenings available to pre-school children. However it is important that all children undergo their first eye examination prior to beginning school and at least every 2 years following, unless the optometrist recommends more regularly.
A comprehensive children’s eye examination, is not unlike an adults, where we test vision and check for any ocular disease. However we also check a child’s ‘visual efficiency skills; can they see ‘comfortably’ and sustain focus for a period of time. Even when there is no significant refractive error, focusing skills can still be immature, making it harder to read, or change focus when copying from the board to book.
Vision plays a vital role in the reading process. For success in school, children must have other equally important visual skills besides their sharpness of sight, or visual acuity. They must also be able to coordinate their eye movements as a team. They must be able to follow a line of print without losing their place. They must be able to maintain clear focus as they read or make quick focusing changes when looking up to the board and back to their desks. And they must be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. If children have inadequate visual skills in any of these areas, they can experience great difficulty in school, especially in reading.
Children who lack good basic visual skills often struggle in school unnecessarily. Their “hidden” vision problem is keeping them from performing at grade level, yet teachers and parents often fail to make the connection between poor reading and the child’s vision.
Here are some examples of common signs and behaviors which may indicate visual acuity or visual processing problems in children. If any of these signs or symptoms are noticed a full visual examination is recommended. A visual perceptual evaluation may also be indicated.
- Complaints of blurred vision
- Complains of headaches or eyestrain especially with near tasks
- Close reading or writing distance
- Blurry vision noted when changing from reading to distance viewing
- Poor reading comprehension
- An eye that turns in or out
- Double vision
- Tires quickly with reading
- Watery eyes especially with close activities
- Red eyes
- Clumsiness or poor concentration
- Squinting, blinking or holding the book close
- Loses place often when reading or copying from the board
- Skips words or lines, needs to use their finger as a guide
- Excessive head movement when reading
- Short attention span
- Covers or closes eyes when reading
- Unusual head turn or poor body posture when reading
- Complains of words moving or jumbling on the page
- Rubs eyes a lot
- Difficulty knowing their own Right from Left side
- Persistent reversal of letters and numbers
- Writes their name from right to left
- Poor handwriting
- Difficulty recognising the same word repeated on a page
- Mistakes words with similar beginnings
- Reads slowly
- Poor spelling
- Difficulty copying