Eyes are windows to more than just a child’s soul
Dr. Eileen Gable
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:01AM
Nearly 80 percent of what a child learns during their first 12 years is obtained through their vision. Though vision problems may seem easy to identify, they actually can be difficult for parents to discern. Still, parents need to be attentive since vision disorders are the fourth-most-common disability in children in the U.S.
The symptoms of vision problems in young children can be very subtle. Often, it’s not until children are in school that it starts to become apparent. But there are cues that parents can notice even before a child enters school. You should have your child’s vision tested if he or she does any of the following:
Loses interest quickly. Children won’t complain of blurry vision but will lose interest quickly because the visual activity is difficult.
Turns his or her head or tilt it one way or the other when looking at something.
Sits with one eye covered.
Make a physical change in body position in order to see.
Changes in work or behavior at school. School-age children who can’t see well may act out in school or their grades may suffer. Parents should be in contact with their child’s teacher to better assess a child’s behavior.
Teachers are a great resource for parents. Working with your child’s teacher is one of the best ways to help determine if a child’s behavior in school or difficulty with grades might be a response to a vision problem.
Another obstacle in discerning if your child has trouble seeing is that other issues can mask themselves as a vision problem. For instance, your child might to not be able to pay attention in school because he or she is not getting enough sleep. To help discern if your child has a vision problem make sure your child is:
Eating a balanced diet
Practicing good sleep habits
Without these key healthy habits children can have a hard time focusing and may have headaches or other issues that can mimic vision problems. The eye is controlled by muscles it needs rest, proper nutrition and hydration, too.
If a parent or teacher suspects a child has a vision problem I think it’s best to seek professional care from a pediatric or family eye health specialist so the child feels comfortable.
Having a vision problem can be scary for a child. You want to ensure the physician you see can put the child at ease and be a helpful resource to parents and teachers.
Eileen Gable is a doctor of optometry with Loyola University Health Systems.