Newswise — Can your child read what's on the chalkboard? Or see the teacher from the back of the room?
"Glasses may be the most important back-to-school supply many children get this year," said Eileen Gable, OD, an eye specialist at Loyola Medicine. "Vision problems in young children often go undetected and are difficult for family members to identify."
Vision disorders are the fourth-most-common disability in children. “Vision is complex and tricky for family members to assess. Children with normal sight in just one eye can appear to see really well when in fact, they do not," said Dr. Gable. "Not having good vision in both eyes can cause poor depth perception and, if left untreated, can last a lifetime and limit career choices."
Think your child may have problems seeing correctly? Dr. Gable offers these tips to help parents know what to look for: • Is your child adjusting normal behavior in order to see? "If your child squints, turns his or her head or tilts it when looking at something, sees with one eye closed, or changes body position to see, there is likely a vision problem," said Dr. Gable. • Does your child lose interest quickly? "Children won’t complain of blurry vision but will lose interest quickly because the visual activity is difficult," said Dr. Gable. • Are there changes in schoolwork or behavior at school? "Teachers are a great resource and can work with families to help determine if a child’s behavior in school or difficulty with grades might be a response to a vision problem,” Dr. Gable said.Other health conditions can affect vision temporarily. For good general health, she recommends paying close attention to make sure children are: • Properly hydrated• Eating a nutritionally balanced diet• Exercising appropriately• Practicing good sleep habits“The eye is controlled by muscles that need the right care to function properly, just like any other part of the body," said Dr. Gable. "Headaches or being tired can be confused with vision problems."
Eye exams from a pediatric or family eye health specialist are recommended yearly to catch problems early. “Vision can usually be corrected easily and quickly, most often by being properly fitted for glasses," Dr. Gable said. "An eye doctor who has experience with children should be open to questions, offer reassurance, be sensitive and will explain things so the young patient can understand."
Nearly 80 percent of what children learn during their first 12 years is through their vision. "I love seeing the joyous sense of wonder and excitement when a child can see properly for the first time," she said. "Wearing glasses can make a student's future so much brighter."