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Is it possible that your child's vision is affecting
performance at school?
Do you recognise any of these symptoms in your child?
If so, it could well be that your child's vision should be investigated to establish whether this may be the cause of poor marks. Good vision skills are essential to form a solid foundation for learning. Use the following checklist to evaluate your child's visual system.
Newborns have all the eye structures necessary to see, but they haven’t learned to use them yet. Infants' vision begins to develop at birth. Babies spend much of their early weeks and months of life learning how to see--developing such skills as focusing, teaming their eye movements, recognizing depth, developing eye-hand coordination, and making spatial judgments. As the child grows, more complex skills, such as visual perception, develop to meet the child’s growing need to understand and interpret his world.
Birth to Four Months
When they’re born, babies can see patterns of light and dark and shades of gray. Because newborns can only focus eight to twelve inches, much of their vision is blurred. Babies first start to learn to focus their eyes by looking at faces and then gradually moving out to objects of interest brought near them. When infants begin to follow moving objects with their eyes, tracking and eye teaming skills start to develop as they begin to learn to coordinate their eye movements. Soon they start to reach for objects, the beginning of eye/hand coordination. By four months of age, babies can see full colour.
Four to Six Months
As babies learn to push themselves up, roll over, sit, and scoot, eye/body coordination develops as they learn to control their own movements in space. Likewise, four- to six-month-old babies become quite skillful with their eye/hand coordination, able to reach and grasp at objects freely or direct a bottle into the mouth. By the fourth or fifth month, babies' brains have finished learning how to fuse the pictures coming in from both their right and left eyes into a single image for full binocularity, or "two-eyed" vision with strong depth perception. Spatial and dimensional awareness continue to improve as baby learns to aim accurately when reaching for objects of interest. Likewise, they refine their eye teaming and focusing skills as they learn to look quickly and accurately between near and far distances. Normal visual acuities, or a child's sharpness of vision, has usually developed to 20/20 by the time the child reaches six months.
Six to Eight Months
Most babies start crawling during this time, further developing eye/body coordination. They learn to judge distances and set visual goals, seeing something and moving to get it. Their sudden freedom allows for many new experiences and the rapid development of visual perception skills as babies experience their own bodies in relation to other objects and notice differences in size, shape, and position. By the sixth month, babies acquire fairly accurate eye movement control. Some experts warn that early walkers may not learn to use their eyes together as well as babies who have crawled a lot and teamed their eyes more when looking at close-up objects.
Eight to Twelve Months
Babies can now judge distances well. Eye/hand/body coordination allows them to grasp and throw objects fairly accurately. Perception skills such as visual memory and visual discrimination help babies make sense of their exciting new world. The integration of their vision and fine motor coordination allows babies to manipulate smaller objects, and many begin feeding themselves with finger foods. Once children start walking, they learn to use their eyes to direct and coordinate their bodies' large muscle groups to guide their whole body movements.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Children’s vision continues to develop throughout their preschool years. As toddlers, it is important for them to continue development of eye/hand/body coordination, eye teaming, and depth perception. Stacking building blocks, rolling a ball back and forth, colorings, drawing, cutting, or assembling lock-together toys all help improve these important skills. Also, reading to young children is also important. They develop strong visualization skills as they "picture" the story in their minds. A child should have his first eye exam by age three (sooner if vision problems run in the family) so the optometrist can check if vision is developing normally and catch any problems early. Vision should be checked again when the child enters school.
If you're a parent, you probably know that walking into an optical store can be a little confusing. There may be lots of children's eyeglass frames to choose from, but that's the problem! How do you figure out which ones: a) your child is willing to wear and b) will last longer than the ride home?
Depending on the degree of visual correction necessary, we will prescribe glasses for full- or part-time wear. Some kids will be instructed to take their glasses off for schoolwork, while others need to have them on every waking moment.
Sometimes we will make specific recommendations about suitable eyeglass frames, but often that decision is left up to the parents, the child and the optical dispenser who fits the glasses.
Here are tips to consider to make your trip as painless as possible, and to ensure that you get children's glasses that will last a long time.
Whether they are full- or part-time
eyeglass wearers, most kids get at least a little teasing about their
specs, especially the first time they wear them. One way to help make
your child more comfortable with wearing glasses is to allow her to choose
her own frames. Your kid won't want to get anything "uncool," yet
you don't want her wearing something you find objectionable. However,
keep in mind that the real object is to get her to wear the glasses.
Plastic vs. Metal
Children's frames are made of either plastic or metal (also known as "wire"). Double bridges are found on boys' frames, while frames with single bridges are either unisex or strictly for girls. A lot of manufacturers copy adult styles for children's frames. Kids like these styles a lot because they are more grown-up. It's not unusual for kids to ask for glasses that look just like Mom's or Dad's.
In the past, plastic eyeglasses were a better choice for children because they were considered more durable, less likely to be bent or broken, lighter in weight and less expensive. But now manufacturers are making metal frames that incorporate spring hinges.
A nice feature to look for is temples with spring hinges. These special hinges allow the temples to flex outward, away from the frames, without causing any damage. Although they sometimes cost a bit more, spring hinges can be a worthwhile investment on children's eyewear. Kids are not always careful when they put on and take off glasses, and the spring hinges can help prevent costly repairs. They also come in handy if the child falls asleep with the glasses on, or just has a rough day at play. Spring hinges are strongly recommended for toddlers, who sometimes get carried away playing with their new glasses.
Once you and your child agree on frames that you both
like, the next consideration is the lenses. Children's lenses should
be made of polycarbonate, because it is the most impactresistant material
around. (It is actually the same plastic that bullet-proof glass is made
of!) In addition to being the safest material, it is also lighter in
weight than regular plastic lenses, a nice advantage for strong prescriptions.
Polycarbonate has built-in protection against potentially damaging ultraviolet
(UV) rays, and the lenses are scratch-resistant coated by the manufacturer
or fabrication lab. And with polycarbonate, kids get that extra margin
of safety to protect their eyes.
Although it must be treated
for safety, glass still shatters when it breaks, and broken glass — even
safety glass — is a hazard
to the eye. Glass lenses are also a little heavier, which makes them
less comfortable to wear.
If your child wears glasses, she needs prescription sunglasses as well. You may choose to simply use an old pair of glasses for the sunglasses, and we can coat them with UV protection and tint them dark. Then, in an emergency, the tint can be removed so that the glasses can be used indoors again.
If you have ticked two or more of the above, you should have your child's visual system evaluated. Phone us for an appointment and to enquire about our school holiday specials. Alternatively, fill in our on-line appointment form.
Don't expect a child to tell you that his vision isn't clear. He has no yardstick of comparison to inform him that his vision differs from the vision of anyone else.
Eyesight is simply the ability to see something clearly, the so-called 20/20 eyesight (as measured in a standard eye examination with a Snellen chart). Vision goes beyond eyesight and can best be defined as the understanding of what is seen. Vision involves the ability to take incoming visual information, process that information and obtain meaning from it.
Adequate Vision Is Critical to Learning
Since something like 75% to 90% of all a child learns comes to him via the visual pathways, it stands to reason that if there is any interference in those pathways, a child will not develop to his maximum potential.
Visual Acuity: There are many visual skills which are important for academic success. One of the least important skills is termed visual acuity (clarity, sharpness). This is the so-called 20/20 eyesight. All that is meant by the notation 20/20 is that a person is capable of seeing clearly at a distance of twenty feet. Unfortunately, how well a child sees at twenty feet has little to do with how his vision functions at the reading and learning distance.
Binocular Coordination: One of the more important visual skills is the ability to coordinate the two eyes together. A child is born with two eyes, but he must learn to team them together. Some children learn to do this properly while others do not. For example, some children develop a problem known as exophoria, which is a tendency for the eyes to deviate in an outward direction.
Adequate Convergence: During the act of reading, the demand is for the two eyes to turn inward so that they are aimed at the reading task. If the eyes have a tendency to deviate outward, the child must use excess effort and energy to maintain fixation on the reading task. Human nature being what it is the child will then generally avoid a reading task. This is compounded by the fact that anything not done well, we don’t wish to do. This is the child who looks out the window rather than paying visual attention. He is often accused of having a short attention span and not trying. He is told that he would do better if he tried harder (but he has tried harder). The child may often lose his place while reading and/or uses his finger or a marker to maintain his place. While making the eye movements during the act of reading, he might not land on the next word, but rather land a few words further on. Consequently, he may omit small words or confuse small words. The child might just add a word or two to make the sentence make sense. If the two eyes are pointing at the same point in space, a person will see the fixated object as being single.
Astigmatism, Eye-Hand Coordination, Visual-Motor Problems and more: Children with coordination type visual problems often get into distorted postures in an attempt to get one eye out of the act. They often put their head down on their arm, cover one eye with their palm or rotate their head so that the bridge of their nose interferes with the vision from one eye.
Esophoria: Another eye coordination problem is termed esophoria, which is a tendency for the eyes to turn inwards. The educational implication of this particular problem is that a child with esophoria sees things smaller than what they actually are. In order to see an object properly, it is necessary to make the object larger. The only means at the disposal of the child to make it larger is to bring it closer. Eventually, the child is observed with his head buried in a book and still not achieving.
Reading Skills and Binocular Visual Skills
The difference in performance when reading can often quite dramatic if there is an eye teaming problem. One eye performance might be quite satisfactory, but reading with both eyes together will be slower and many more errors will be made.
Directionality: Directionality is another visual skill important for academic success . It is just a convention of our culture that the English language proceeds in a left to right direction. Other languages proceed in a right to left direction and still others have a vertical orientation. If a child does not visually proceed from left to right, through vision therapy he can be taught to develop this skill just like he can be taught to team his eyes together.
Form Perception: Form perception is another important visual skill for academic achievement. This can best be illustrated by referring to the forms below. If a child can't perceive and copy these simple geometric forms, it is unreasonable to assume that he will be able to perceive the wiggly lines which make up letters which in turn make up words, which in turn make up sentences which stand for abstract ideas.
Attention Span/Span of Perception: The Span of Perception is also related to success in school. Many children see just one word at a time with each eye fixation. Reading speed can be improved by learning to see two, three, or more words with each eye fixation. This could be compared to reading through a straw. This is easily remedied with a reading programme.
At birth, infants are auditory dominant, rather than visually dominant; that is, they are first "listeners," rather than "lookers." Normal visual maturation is the shift from responding to simple brightness or high contrast edges of forms toward organization of detail into a pattern, and understanding the meaning of an object or picture. If visually captured by the overwhelming brightness or colours of toys, the infant is less likely to recognize what an object is or how it fits into a scheme of things.
What a Baby Sees in the First Year
Newborn - One Month
Four - Six Months
A four- to sixth-month-old baby is visually guided in reaching/grasping; and visually inspects and examines a toy held in different orientations/positions, and looks for it when it falls from view.
Six - 12 Months
During the infant and toddler years, your child has been developing many vision skills and has been learning how to see. In the preschool years, this process continues, as your child develops visually guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and the visual motor skills necessary to learn to read.
As a parent, signs that may indicate a vision development problem include a short attention span for the child's age; difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination in ball play and bike riding; avoidance of colorings and puzzles and other detailed activities.
There are everyday things that you can do at home to help your preschooler's vision develop as it should. These activities include:
By age three, your child should have a thorough optometric eye examination to make sure your preschooler's vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your eye care practitioner can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem.
Unless your doctor advises otherwise, your child's next eye examination should be at age five. By comparing test results of the two examinations, your doctor can tell how well your child's vision is developing for the next major step...into the school years.
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