Most people are aware of the life-changing impact of failing vision in the elderly population. However, visual difficulties can develop early in life and can impact your child academically as well as socially. Visual problems in children are common, occurring in 8% of preschoolers and 25% of school-aged children. The use of glasses and contact lenses escalated from 18% in 1939 to 40% in 1980(1.)
However, despite the introduction of vision screening in schools it is estimated that 20% of school-aged children have an unrecognized vision-based learning problem.(2.) School vision screening is only designed to check children’s distance vision, as measured by the 20/20 line on the eye chart. It fails to detect other visual problems.
School screening does not check that both eyes are coordinated and working as a team, or that your child can track print across a written page without losing her place, or that she can adjust easily from near reading to reading the blackboard. Your child may pass their school screening with 20/20 eyesight, but still have vision problems in other areas.
The ADD Connection
Vision problems can lead to poor performance at school as well as behavioral problems and poor social interaction.
If any of the necessary visual skills are not working then your child has to work harder to keep up with the rest of her class. Children who have poor visual skills can experience great difficulty in school, especially in reading. This often results in headaches, fatigue, squinting or rubbing of the eyes, avoidance of close-up work and a short attention span. By watching your child you may notice clues that they have visual difficulties.
Children with vision-based learning problems may:
- Read below grade level
- Try to avoid reading or close work
- Omit or reverse words or letters
- Have poor handwriting
- Use their finger to keep track of their place whilst reading
- Have a short attention span
- Finish homework assignments slowly, with frequent breaks
- Squint or rub their eyes when reading
- Have frequent headaches
- Not enjoy school
- Have poor coordination skills
- Have low self-esteem
Because many of these behaviors mimic dyslexia and ADD, children are frequently misdiagnosed. If your child has been labeled as dyslexic or ADD, be sure to have their vision tested by a professional. Researchers have found that children diagnosed with ADD are three-times more likely to have a visual disorder than other children.
If your child has difficulty keeping both eyes focused on a close target they will find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on reading, one of the ways doctors diagnose ADD.
Developmental Optometrists receive specialized training to recognize and diag- nose learning-related vision problems. If you suspect that your child has visual difficulties make an appointment with a developmental optometrist.(3.)
If your child is diagnosed with visual difficulties you can take steps to correct the disorder. This can spare your child years of struggling with schoolwork or a diagnosis of dyslexia or ADD. Identifying and treating the problem early allows your child to achieve their full potential and prevent social disorders from developing.
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