Vision Problems Hidden In Plain View Have you ever wanted to see the world through your child’s eyes? Figuratively, of course, it would help you as a parent to better understand your child. Your child’s emotions, apprehensions and motivations are affected by how they view the world. But what about literally seeing the world as your child sees it. Have you thought about what that would look like?
Of course, children with vision problems may have signs and symptoms. The indicator that there is a vision problem can be obvious, such as an eye that clearly crosses in or turns out, or squinting to see the board and not performing well at school. Children with vision problems may have headaches that prompt investigation. They also may have an aversion to reading or a tendency to act out in the classroom. In some cases, hand-eye co-ordination or sports performance is affected by vision problems. Any or all of these indicators can be a tip off that there is a vision problem and generally an appointment is scheduled for the child to see the optometrist.
But more often than not, there is in fact a vision problem when a child shows none of these indicators. Children naturally assume that everyone sees the world the way that they see it. Being children they make normal adaptive compensations at a young age, such as focusing harder to make their world clear. But probably the most harmful compensation is called suppression, an involuntary adaptation of the brain when one eye is blurred or misaligned. In the case of suppression, the brain automatically shuts off the image from the blurred or misaligned eye. This in turn causes the visual cells in the brain for that eye to poorly develop and remain small and immature.
This condition is called amblyopia and if it is not detected at a young age it becomes permanent. That child will grow into adulthood with a permanent visual impairment in one eye that cannot be corrected with glasses or surgery. This can prevent him/her from engaging in many career paths and if an accident occurs to the good eye it can leave them effectively blind.
Therefore, take the time to ‘see through your child’s eyes’ by having them visit an optometrist at a young age. Current recommendations are for exams at age 6 months, age 3 years, before school and yearly thereafter…because just when you think your child is seeing well, there could very well be a problem.
It is with this message in mind that the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) launched the Eye See…Eye Learn program. Junior kindergarten children (born 2006) in four pilot program regions (Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Peel and Windsor-Essex) are encouraged to have their eyes thoroughly examined by an optometrist. The exam is covered by their health card and if the child requires a pair of glasses, they will receive a pair free of charge.
To find out more about the program or to find an optometrist near you, please visit www.EyeSeeEyeLearn.ca or call 855-424-3735 .
Contributor: Dr Karen MacDonald Waterloo Optometrist Chair, Children’s Vision Committee