July 2020 | Page 22

“ — by Cheryl Maguire How Healthy Are Your Child’s Eyes? You need glasses,” the ophthalmologist said to me. I was twelve years old. My mom was shocked, since I never complained of unclear vision and no one else in our family had poor eyesight. The reason I went to the doctor is that I failed the school eye screening exam. My vision became gradually worse so I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal. I remember when I first wore glasses thinking to myself, “Everything seems so clear and crisp. I can see the tips of leaves on a tree and easily read street signs.” I thought it was normal to see the world a little bit blurry. Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month is coming up in August. This issue is important to me since my vision has significantly declined from the time of my initial diagnosis over thirty years ago. Even though I am nearsighted (which means I can only see close up and need glasses for far away), without my glasses or contact lenses, I wouldn’t be able to read a word document at normal font size on a computer screen (it’s just a white blur with black lines) since my vision is so poor. I asked my eye doctor if I am considered legally blind. It turns out I’m not, since my vision can still be corrected with glasses. According to the website LetsGo- See.net, one in four children has a vision problem. The Centers for Disease 22 WNY Family July 2020 Control states that Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is the most common cause of vision loss in children, which can be treated if caught early between the ages of 3 to 5 years old. PreventBlindness.org found the most common vision disorders in children are myopia (nearsightedness; trouble seeing far away), hyperopia (farsightedness; trouble seeing close up), and astigmatism (blurry vision at all distances). Visual acuity, or lack thereof, affects a child in many ways. The Urban Child Institute states that correcting poor vision can foster a child’s cognitive and social development, while the American Optometric Association estimates 80% of a child’s learning happens through observation. In the classroom, most of the teaching is done by the display of information. Children also learn social skills from seeing facial expressions and body language. Similar to my experience, children may be unaware of the fact their vision is not normal, since they have never experienced anything else. This may lead to feeling frustrated about being unable to see the words in a book or on the board in the classroom, causing a child to act out. According to the American Optometric Association, “Some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviors of hyperactivity and distractibility. These children are often labeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children may be mislabeled as having ADHD when, in fact, they have an undetected vision problem.” The following are signs that may indicate your child could have a vision problem: 1) Head Tilt: If your child has a problem with their ocular muscles or nerves they will attempt to compensate by tilting their head. 2) Sitting Too Close To The TV: If your child is nearsighted, they will attempt to compensate for this by moving closer to the TV or other reading materials. 3) Avoidance of Reading: If your child has poor visual skills and eye teaming skills, they will compensate for this by avoiding reading. Reading uses many complex eye movements and poor visual skills may cause your child to become frustrated easily. 4) Frequent Headaches: You child may have headaches because he/she is over strained using all of their energy to align, focus, and use their eyes. 5) Laterality Problem: If your child has poor directional skills and often confuses left and right it could be due to poor vision. Proper oculocentric location is dependent on vision and laterality depends, in part, upon oculocentric location. 6) Finger Pointing: If your child has poor vision tracking skills they may use their finger to compensate for their poor tracking ability. 7) Can’t Copy From The Board: Your child may have difficulty with accommodation, the ability to change focus between far and near. This is essential for success in school. 8) Squinting: Your child may squint because this narrows a bundle of light entering the eye which allows for continued on page 30