Q: I just realized that my daughter is struggling with her reading assignments. I first thought it was just all the tablet use this year, but now I think she is reading slower, loses her place too easily, and doesn’t enjoy reading just fun. Where should I start?
A: In general, children just never complain about eye problems. I suppose they naturally assume that everyone sees like them, and of course, they have no perspective to differentiate “normal” vision from “abnormal”. Fortunately, these days a thorough pediatric eye examination can identify the cause/s of reading disorders.
To give you a brief overview, unlike an adult eye exam, for children:
- we specifically measure eye alignment at distance and near
- we evaluate how accurately their eyes track across a line of print and can find the next line
- we measure the focusing range and ease for near-vision work like reading.
These are called “oculomotor” skills, and for many children are developmentally delayed.
These eye skills are like tools you need to read and perform all manner of near vision tasks. If you do not have adequate tools, the job is much harder. Sometimes slower. Often inaccurate. And almost always….silent. Too often we find very smart kids struggling to keep up in school, or actually reading with one eye at a time, all because their binocular vision is not developing normally. Some use their finger to keep their place, and some hold their work too close.
The good news is this: with proper lenses to sharpen focus or to assist eye alignment, or both many children can catch up and regain those eye skills to make reading easy again. And if lenses alone are not the answer, just like you would use physical therapy or occupational therapy, we prescribe vision therapy to train those oculomotor skills! Sometimes also called “orthoptics” or “eye exercises”, this treatment has a very high success rate but is unfortunately scarce in West Virginia. We are fortunate here in Morgantown to have access to a vision therapy specialist!
As a general rule, all children should have a professional pediatric eye exam by age 3, and annually through elementary school. Screenings at school and in other settings are great…but very limited. Do not confuse a screening with a true Optometric examination for children. While all eye exams should look for disease and making vision clear on the eye chart, many children need more. Ask some questions…..be sure your child is really getting a pediatric eye examination. Be sure your child has the vision tools to make learning easy and enjoyable!
Call Morgantown Eye Associates on 304-381-5353 to schedule an eye exam with our Morgantown optometrist.
Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT