When you child starts school at age four or five, the eyes begin to work much harder; eye muscles strengthen and nerve connections multiply. You can help this process by supplying plenty of visual stimulation for your child – but try to keep hours allowed playing computer games to a minimum to avoid eye strain. The single best way to protect your child’s vision is through regular, professional eye examinations.
Vision screening at school
In some areas of Britain eye screening is carried out by an orthoptist in reception class to look for strabismus (squints) and/or amblyopia (lazy eyes). Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes don’t look in unison at the same object. It is a physical disorder, whereas amblyopia is the visual consequence. Amblyopia and strabismus are most effectively treated when detected early. Treatment includes visual therapy and, often, surgery. Left undetected or untreated, blurry or double vision may be a lasting result.
Eye examinations at the Opticians
It’s important to remember that school vision screening is not the same as a full eye examination with an optometrist, so make sure you take advantage of the free NHS examinations available to all under 16s. Vision changes can occur without your child or you noticing them. Therefore, your child should receive an eye examination at least once every two years and more frequently if specific problems or risk factors exist, or if recommended by your optometrist. The earlier a vision problem is detected and treated, the more likely treatment will be successful. Your optometrist can prescribe treatment including glasses, contact lenses or vision therapy to correct any vision problems.
An annual eye examination should be included for any child being assessed for educational underachievement or learning disability, including dyslexia. If they cannot see the blackboard or the book, they cannot learn. This may even present as a behavioural problem, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Reading difficulties can be part of a wider spectrum of problems and may be associated with refractive errors like long or short sight, eye movement disorders or, as in the majority of children, due to problems unrelated to the eye. Children with dyslexia tend to have an associated writing difficulty.
Coventry based Specs Network optician, Susan Bowers, says:
“By taking your child for a thorough eye examination around the time they begin school, you can be re-assured that educationally your child can see at both distance and near to reach their full potential academically. In Sweden, children have one of the highest levels of academic achievement in the world. It is a statutory requirement there that before the start of every new school year – children must have a certificate of an eye examination.”
Regular eye examinations at this age are important because poor eyesight can affect everything from learning ability and athletic performance to self-esteem. And untreated eye conditions can worsen, leading to more serious problems. A balanced diet can make an important difference in the quality of your child’s eyesight. When meals are rich in vitamins and minerals, they help eyes develop in a healthy way.
Protecting your child’s eyes from UV rays is very important too, so talk to your optometrist about the best sun lenses to suit your child’s needs.