Learning-Related Vision Problems

There’s no question that good vision is important for learning. Experts say more than 80% of what your child is taught in school is presented to them visually.

To make sure your child has the visual skills they need for school, the first step is to make sure your child has 20/20 eyesight. You’ll want to ensure any nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism is fully corrected with glasses or contact lenses. But there are other, less obvious learning-related vision problems you should know about as well.

Good vision is more than 20/20 visual acuity

Your child can have “20/20” eyesight and still have vision problems that can affect their learning and classroom performance. Visual acuity (how well your child can see letters on a wall chart) is just one aspect of good vision, and it’s not even the most important one. Many nearsighted kids may have trouble seeing the board in class, but they read well and excel in school.

Other important visual skills needed for learning include:

  • Eye movement skills – How smoothly and accurately your child can move their eyes across a printed page in a textbook.
  • Eye focusing abilities – How well they can change focus from far to near and back again (for copying information from the board, for example).
  • Eye teaming skills – How well your child’s eyes work together as a synchronized team (to converge for proper eye alignment for reading, for example).
  • Binocular vision skills – How well your child’s eyes can blend visual images from both eyes into a single, three-dimensional image.
  • Visual perceptual skills – How well your child can identify and understand what they see, judge its importance, and associate it with previous visual information stored in their brain.
  • Visual-motor integration – The quality of your child’s eye-hand coordination, which is important not only for sports, but also for legible handwriting and the ability to efficiently copy written information from a book or chalkboard.
  • Deficiencies in any of these important visual skills can significantly affect your child’s learning ability and school performance.

Many kids have vision problems that affect learning

Many kids have undetected learning-related vision problems. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), one study indicates 13% of children between the ages of 9 and 13 suffer from moderate to severe convergence insufficiency (an eye teaming problem that can affect reading performance). The study also concluded as many as one in four school-age children may have at least one learning-related vision problem.

Signs and symptoms of learning-related vision problems

There are many signs and symptoms of learning-related vision disorders, including:

  • Blurred distance or near vision, particularly after reading or other close work
  • Frequent headaches or eye strain
  • Difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back
  • Double vision, especially during or after reading
  • Avoidance of reading
  • Easily distracted when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Loss of place, repetition, and/or omission of words while reading
  • Letter and word reversals
  • Poor handwriting
  • Hyperactivity or impulsiveness during class
  • Poor overall school performance

If your child exhibits one or more of these signs or symptoms and is having problems in school, call us to schedule a comprehensive children’s vision exam.

Comprehensive children’s vision exam

A children’s vision exam includes tests performed in a routine eye exam, plus additional tests to detect learning-related vision problems. These extra tests may include an assessment of eye focusing, eye teaming, and eye movement abilities. Also, depending on the type of problems your child is having, we may recommend other testing, either in our office or with a children’s vision and/or vision development specialist.

Vision therapy

If it turns out your child has a learning-related vision problem that cannot be corrected with regular glasses or contact lenses, then special reading glasses or vision therapy may help. Vision therapy is a program of eye exercises and other activities specifically tailored for each patient to improve their vision skills.

Vision and learning disabilities

A child who is struggling in school could have a learning-related vision problem, a learning disability or both. Vision therapy is a treatment for vision problems; it does not correct a learning disability. However, children with learning disabilities may also have vision problems that are contributing to their difficulties in the classroom.

After your child’s comprehensive vision exam, we will advise you about whether a program of vision therapy would be helpful. If we don’t provide the services we believe your child needs, we will refer you to a children’s vision specialist or education/learning specialist who does.

Minimize Stress To Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Big project due? Bills need to be paid? Trying to find a job? These are a few things that can cause stress. That stress can cause other problems to your health including your eyes.

Life can be hectic as we try to best manage our tasks in an orderly fashion, but sometimes the anxiety takes control of us and our body. Hypertension, or constant high blood pressure, can put us at a higher risk of Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO). This disease affects about four out of 1000 people and is considered a “heart attack or stroke selectively affecting the retina.”

This can lead to blurred vision or total loss of vision if not treated.

Our eyes are the most sensitive part of our body which is why stress easily affects our vision. High blood pressure obviously affects the heart and it also damages the vessels that supply blood to our eyes. This damage is in the form of clots.

How Can I Prevent Stress-Related Issues?

The best way to treat this problem is to address your stress. It’s important for us to understand the physical damage that can be done to our eyes. Finding ways to cope with our stress will lead to less anxiety and keep our eyes and the rest of our body healthy.

Technology has also helped with controlling the damage done to our eyes due to stress. These new treatments include injections, lasers and surgery. It’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly to help prevent RVO from affecting you and your eyes.

If you’ve noticed your vision is becoming more blurred, please schedule an appointment to see one of our eye doctors at Performance Eyecare. It’s important to understand why your vision is blurred and to address it immediately.

It’s also important to seek other help if you are under uncontrollable stress whether it be from the workplace or your everyday life.

Glasses to Aid Kids’ computer vision

Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome

Did you know October is considered Computer Learning Month? We’re not here to teach you how to use the computer better, but to inform you of computer vision syndrome, especially for children who are likely to use the computer more often.

Take a look at these facts and figures from Gary Heiting, OD and Larry K. Wan, OD:

  • 94 percent of American families with children have a computer in the home with access to the Internet.*
  • The amount of time children ages 8 to 18 devote to entertainment media (including computer and video games) each day has increased from 6.19 hours in 1999 to 7.38 hours in 2009.**
  • In 2009, 29 percent of American children ages 8 to 18 had their own laptop computer, and kids in grades 7 through 12 reported spending an average of more than 90 minutes a day sending or receiving texts on their cell phones.**

Sitting in front of the computer screen stresses a child’s eyes because it forces them to focus and strain a lot more than any other task. This can put them at an even greater risk than adults for developing symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents should consider these factors affecting children and computer use:

  • Children may not be aware of how much time they are spending at a computer. They may perform a task on the computer for hours with few breaks. This prolonged activity can cause eye focusing and eye strain problems.
  • Children are very adaptable. They assume that what they see and how they see is normal — even if their vision is problematic. That’s why it is important for parents to monitor the time a child spends working at a computer and make sure they have regular eye exams as directed by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.
  • Children are smaller than adults. Since computer workstations often are arranged for adult use, this can change the viewing angle for young children. Computer users should view the screen slightly downward, at a 15-degree angle. Also, if a child has difficulty reaching the keyboard or placing their feet comfortably on the floor, he or she may experience neck, shoulder and/or back pain.

Here are tips to reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome in children, according to the AOA:

  1. Have your child’s vision checked. Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam, including near-point (computer and reading) and distance testing.
  2. Limit the amount of time your child spends at the computer without a break. Encourage kids to take 20-second breaks from the computer every 20 minutes to minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation. (Some eye doctors call this the “20-20 rule.”)
  3. Check the ergonomics of the workstation. For young and small children, make sure the computer workstation is adjusted to their body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18 to 28 inches. Viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches can strain the eyes.
  4. Check the lighting. To reduce glare, windows and other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen.

Be sure to check out our large selection of high quality and designer eyeglasses!

Eye Exams for Children

As a parent, you may wonder whether your pre-schooler has a vision problem or when a first eye exam should be scheduled.

Eye exams for children are extremely important. Experts say 5 to 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial because, if left untreated, some childhood vision problems can cause permanent vision loss.

When should kids have their eyes examined?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. They should go back to the eye doctor around age 3, then again at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually.

Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic visual skills for learning:

  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Eye teaming (binocularity) skills
  • Eye movement skills
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness
  • Eye/hand coordination

Scheduling your child’s eye exam

Your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, they may refer an optometrist for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to help them detect and diagnose vision problems.

When scheduling an eye exam, choose a time when your child is usually alert and happy. Specifics of how eye exams are conducted depend on your child’s age, but an exam generally will involve a case history, vision testing, determination of whether eyeglasses are needed, testing of eye alignment, an eye health examination and a consultation with you regarding the findings.

After you’ve made the appointment, you’ll fill out a form all about your child’s health. The health history form will ask about your child’s birth history (also called perinatal history), such as birth weight and whether or not the child was full-term. Your eye doctor also may ask whether complications occurred during the pregnancy or delivery. The form will also inquire about current medications and past or present allergies.

Be sure to tell your eye doctor if your child has a history of prematurity, has delayed motor development, engages in frequent eye rubbing, blinks excessively, fails to maintain eye contact, cannot seem to maintain a gaze while looking at objects, has poor eye tracking skills or has failed a pediatrician or pre-school vision screening.

Your eye doctor will also want to know about your child’s previous ocular diagnoses and treatments like surgeries and glasses or contact lens wear. Be sure you inform your eye doctor if there is a family history of eye problems requiring vision correction, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, misaligned eyes (strabismus) or amblyopia (“lazy eye”).

Eye testing for infants

It takes some time for a baby’s vision skills to develop. To assess whether your infant’s eyes are developing normally, your eye doctor may use one or more of the following tests:

  • Tests of pupil responses evaluate whether the eye’s pupil opens and closes properly in the presence or absence of light.
  • “Fixate and follow” testing determines whether your baby can fixate on an object (such as a light) and follow it as it moves. Infants should be able to perform this task quite well by the time they are 3 months old.
  • Preferential looking involves using cards that are blank on one side with stripes on the other side to attract the gaze of an infant to the stripes. In this way, vision capabilities can be assessed.

Eye testing for pre-school children

Pre-school children can have their eyes thoroughly tested even if they don’t yet know the alphabet or are too shy to answer the doctor’s questions. Some common eye tests used specifically for young children include:

  • LEA Symbols for young children are similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, except that special symbols in these tests include an apple, house, square and circle.
  • Retinoscopy is a test that involves shining a light into the eye to observing how it reflects from the retina (the light-sensitive inner lining of the back of the eye). This test helps eye doctors determine the child’s eyeglass prescription.
  • Random Dot Stereopsis uses dot patterns to determine how well the two eyes work as a team.

Eye and vision problems that affect children

Besides looking for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism (refractive errors), your eye doctor will be examining your child’s eyes for signs of these eye and vision problems commonly found in young children:

  • Amblyopia. Also commonly called “lazy eye,” this is decreased vision in one or both eyes despite the absence of any eye health problem or damage. Common causes of amblyopia include strabismus (see below) and a significant difference in the refractive errors of the two eyes. Treatment of amblyopia may include patching the dominant eye to strengthen the weaker eye.
  • Strabismus. This is misalignment of the eyes, often caused by a congenital defect in the positioning or strength of muscles that are attached to the eye and which control eye positioning and movement. Left untreated, strabismus can cause amblyopia in the misaligned eye. Depending on its cause and severity, surgery may be required to treat strabismus.
  • Convergence insufficiency. This is the inability to keep the eye comfortably aligned for reading and other near tasks. Convergence insufficiency can often be successfully treated with vision therapy, a specific program of eye exercises.
  • Focusing problems. Children with focusing problems (also called accommodation problems) may have trouble changing focus from distance to near and back again (accommodative infacility) or have problems maintaining adequate focus for reading (accommodative insufficiency). These problems often can be successfully treated with vision therapy.
  • Eye teaming problems. Many eye teaming (binocularity) problems are more subtle than strabismus. Deficiencies in eye teaming skills can cause problems with depth perception and coordination.

Vision and learning

Experts say that 80% of what your child learns in school is presented visually. Undetected vision problems can put them at a significant disadvantage. Be sure to schedule a complete eye exam for your child prior to the start of school.

Get Ready for School with a Trip To Performance Eyecare

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends each child has an eye exam prior to starting kindergarten. All children in Illinois are required to have an eye exam prior to kindergarten.

Did you know that 30 percent of learning disorders are caused by visual problems? According to Gary Heiting, OD of AllAboutVision.com, five to ten percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. The key to getting your child off to the right start is early detection of vision issues. This is important because children are more likely to be responsive to treatment than adults.

The AOA recommends school-aged children with no vision correction should have an eye exam every two years. Those children with eyeglasses or contacts need to have an annual eye exam, or as recommended by their optometrist.

How Does Good Vision Help My Child in School?

Good eyesight is critical to learning, because children rely heavily on sign and touch to explore the world around them. They use skills such as near vision, distance vision, binocular coordination, eye movement skills, focusing skills, peripheral awareness and hand-eye coordination.

Your family doctor or pediatrician will likely be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are detected, a referral to an eye doctor is likely to happen.

It’s important to choose a time when he or she is usually wide awake and happy! At Performance Eyecare we have a kid-friendly office with a kid’s corner complete with an African animal mural and toys. We understand children can be anxious when going to any doctor so we try to make it as relaxing and enjoyable as possible for them.

To schedule your child’s appointment, find your local office and select your appointment time here!

For more information on why vision matters when kids go back to school, check out the original article: http://www.allaboutvision.com/eye-exam/children.htm