Q: My grandson is frequently getting in trouble at school, and it seems he has problems keeping up. His pediatrician has suggested an eye exam…….why?
A: We are so glad most pediatricians do some sort of vision screening in their offices, but please know that a comprehensive pediatric eye examination entails a lot more. It turns out that our vision plays a huge role in learning and behavior, as we grow up.
Most screenings check your distance vision…..like at 20 feet. These are good to pick up those kids with nearsightedness ( good vision near, but blurry distance ), but generally do not identify the kids with near vision problems. Children who have blurriness at near, or eyestrain / headaches with reading, or trouble keeping single binocular vision at near often become learning and behavior problems. For them, reading is a chore. They naturally avoid reading and studying, because it is uncomfortable. This allows time for mischief and distractions, but also creates a learning lag.
If a vision disorder is found, correction can be kid’s eyewear or daily use contacts or even eyedrops to slow the progression. If wearing glasses may be an issue with peer pressure, almost all vison corrections now are available in single use daily contacts. These require no nightly cleaning, or disinfection overnight…..no care at all…..think “happy moms”! Kids need to have the visual skills to read and learn quickly in school, but also to feel good about themselves. Our self image and confidence are so important in those adolescent years.
These pediatric eye exams can be performed at any age….even with infants. With younger patients, we simply rely more on objective tests and less on subjective cooperative questions. Early detection of these “hidden” eye problems is so important. Problems like “lazy eye” if found early and treated can be fully corrected in most cases. With each year of growth, it becomes harder to correct such developmental disorders.
Generally, all children should have a complete Optometric eye exam by age 2, again at age 4, and certainly in first grade. If a parent observes eye-hand coordination problems, or an eye that “wanders” at times, or holding their reading material extra close……call your eye doctor. Do not rely on symptoms or complaints. Be sure your child, or grandchild, has the eye and vision skills to excel in learning!