Your children’s vision is inextricably linked with their performance at school as well as their general wellbeing. If they are having trouble seeing clearly, they will be having trouble with reading, seeing what is written on the board, and even what is happening on the sports field and other visual cues.
Poor vision not only affects performance at school and contributes to learning disabilities but has also been linked with depression in young children. So, it is important for parents to keep an eye out for signs that their children could be battling to see and make a point to have their eyes checked regularly.
What to look out for
You should book an eye exam if you notice any of these signs in your children:
- Sitting too close to the TV
- Holding a book too close or using a finger to guide their eyes while reading
- Rubbing their eyes frequently
- Sensitivity to light and computer screens
- Closing one eye to focus on something or when reading
- Complaining of headaches or sore or watering eyes
- Avoiding activities like homework or reading (near vision) and sports or other recreational activities (distance vision)
- Their school marks are dropping
- Introverted behaviour
An eye exam will help to identify if any of these are associated with problems such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism. Rest assured that these common refractive errors can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
Beyond school screenings
Many schools organise vision screenings for learners which offer an early alert for parents that there could be a problem with their children’s eyes. However, these screenings can’t take the place of a visit to an eye care practitioner as they are not comprehensive tests. Studies show that about 11% of children who pass a vision screening actually have a vision problem that needs treatment.
Early action prevents problems later
The best way to make sure that your child has the visual skills and ability to get through their daily tasks at home, at school and on the sports field is to keep a check on their eye health.
Children should have their first eye exam by the time they are six-month-old. This should be followed up with another check by the age of three and again just before they start primary school. School age children should have their eyes checked every two years if they have no visual issues. If they do and your child needs glasses or contact lenses, you will need to schedule an eye exam every 12 month.
Tips for taking care of young eyes
- Buy your child sunglasses with ultraviolet light protection and make sure they wear a hat or a visor when they are in the sun.
- When your child has to work on a computer, keep the distance of the monitor from their eyes between 40 and 76 centimetres. Also tilt the top of the monitor away from them at a 10 to 20-degree angle and position it so that it does not get any distracting reflections, from a window for example.
- Do not smoke around children or allow children to be in smoky environments.
- Protect your children’s eyes with goggles, helmets and guards when they are playing sport.
- Turn on lights when it`s getting dark, especially when reading and doing homework.
- Do some eye exercises – Look to the left then to the right two times with your eyes closed and then do the same looking up and down. Then, look at something further away and focus on it while you count to 10 then look at something close while you count to 10. Do this five times.