At least once or twice a month, I see patients well into their thirties, and even forties, who inform me that they have never had an eye examination. They claim that their vision has always been very good, and that they have had no need for a comprehensive examination. They are also very surprised to walk out of our office a week or two later with their new glasses—and can’t believe what they have been missing! Many wonder, How long have I been struggling to see? Could I have performed better as a child in school, and even sports?
The school years are a very important time in every child’s life. All parents want to see their children do well in school, and most parents do all they can to provide them with the best educational opportunities. However, too often, one important learning tool may be overlooked—a child’s vision.
It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes. Reading, writing, chalkboard work, and using computers are among the visual tasks students perform daily. A child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. When his or her vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.
As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly. Increased class work and homework place significant demands on the child’s eyes. Unfortunately, the visual abilities of some students aren’t performing up to the task.
When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful. Some signs to watch for include:
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.
Because vision may change frequently during the school years, regular eye and vision care is important. The most common vision problem is nearsightedness or myopia. Some children have other forms of refractive error, like farsightedness and astigmatism. In addition, the existence of eye focusing, eye tracking, and eye coordination problems may affect school and sports performance.
Eyeglasses or contact lenses may provide the needed correction for many vision problems. However, a program of vision therapy may also be needed to help develop or enhance vision skills.
If you or your child have never had an eye examination (beyond passing a driver’s vision test or vision screening at school) it is important to establish a good baseline for your eyes. Who knows what you might be missing!
Dr. Rigtrup has been in private practice At C.L.R. Vision, PC (his initials) for over 10 years, with offices in both Springville and Provo. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in Human Biology, and attended Optometry school at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis TN.