According to John F. Kennedy, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” Sadly, many children who perform poorly at school are wrongly labeled as learning disabled when indeed it is attributable to poor eye sight. These children are however not aware of how poor their vision is since that has been how they know the world to be. Children with undetected vision difficulties may have been programmed to fail educationally, athletically, socially and emotionally. Therefore, failure to identify and treat a vision problem early in school age children can lead to poor grades, low self-image and a negative school experience.
Oftentimes parents erroneously associate eye examination with eyeglasses or blindness thereby denying their children the benefit of a timely and professional eye examination. From my experience, many children that present to the hospital for eye related problems are mostly those identified by their observant teachers who notice certain abnormal visual habits displayed by these children in school. Quite sadly, they may have developed conditions like crossed eye, amblyopia among others which may not readily respond to routine treatment because of late presentation to the eye doctor.
Parents and guardians should watch out for certain abnormal appearances and visual habits that are red flags of poor vision in children. Below is a list of some of them:
APPEARANCE: On observing the child’s eyes and you notice that lids are crusted, red-rimmed, or swollen; styes (‘’boil”) occur frequently, eyes water or appear bloodshot, eyes are crossed or turned
BEHAVIOR: when a child holds work too close or too far, asks for special seating, seats very close to the television set, thrusts head forward to see distant objects, holds body tense when reading or looking at distant objects, frowns or squints when reading, attempts to brush away a blur, rubs eyes frequently, blinks continually when reading, tilts head or covers one eye.
COMPLAINTS: when a child complains of itchy eyes or sensitivity to light, images appear blurred or doubled, letters and lines run together, words seem to jump and frequent headaches.
PERFORMANCE IN ACADEMICS: when a child exhibits slowness in learning to read, short attention span, poor achievement demonstrated by reduced quality or quantity of work and slow rate of learning.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: when a child performs poorly at games, exhibits poor eye-muscle coordination, stumbles or trips over small objects
All these are strong indicators for a child to see an eye doctor. Early detection is key to ensuring good vision, healthy development and better learning experiences for children. A careful observation of children would not only encourage early discovery of those with visual needs, but would ensure they present early to their eye doctor which would increase the chances of improved vision of the children. However, pre-school eye screening and regular eye examination remain the best strategies for eliminating avoidable blindness in children and will guarantee them a visionary future.