August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month
August is just around the corner, and with it comes the start of a new school year. Along with back-to-school shopping, consider making August the month for basic healthcare services such as immunizations, dental cleanings, a physical and eye exam. In fact, children younger than school age can benefit from such services.
Ages Zero to Five
Proper vision screenings and examinations are essential for early detection and intervention of vision problems in children. Newborns should have their eyes checked before leaving the hospital. The examination in the nursery is for general eye health and includes a red reflex test. The exam can help detect several congenital eye problems, some of which may lead to blindness.
During well baby exams from birth to 2 years of age, your child’s pediatrician will use history and a vision evaluation to determine if vision problems exist. From ages 3 to 10, well child exams should include vision screenings to assess visual acuity and ocular alignment.
If there is ever a concern during a vision screening, your child should be referred for a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The American Optometric Association recommends that in addition to screenings offered by primary care physicians, comprehensive eye examinations should be scheduled for ages 6 months, 3 years and 5 years for all children, regardless of vision concerns.
Vision can change frequently during the school years, hence the importance of the annual eye exam. More than 80 percent of early learning is visual. If your child is not performing well in school, don’t attribute it to lack of interest or laziness. In some instances, the problem could be vision related. The American Optometric Association (AOA) indicates the most common vision problem is nearsightedness or myopia. However, 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 performance.
Simply put, children have a hard time concentrating if they are unable to see well enough to follow along. And when children don’t comprehend that their inability to process information or see the chalkboard is related to their vision, they may develop poor self esteem, become frustrated with formalized education or act out. According to the AOA, many children are mislabeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when, in reality, they actually have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Vision is an integral part of learning and early intervention is the key to ensuring lifelong independence. An undetected visual impairment at an early can set a child back years in development in just a few short months.
Without good vision, a child’s ability to learn and comprehend the world around them suffers. Since many vision impairments begin at an early age, proper care and early detection is key to ensuring a lifetime of success and independence for children.
Ensure early detection by scheduling an annual eye exam. If you notice the following problems with your child between appointments, see your regular eye doctor right away.
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Frequent headaches
- Covering one eye
- Short attention span
- Avoiding reading assignments or holding reading materials close to the face
- An eye turning in or out
- Seeing double
- Losing his or her place when reading
- Difficulty with reading retention
Understanding Your Child’s Vision
The following information from the AOA and Prevent Blindness America detail the changes in vision that occur throughout childhood.
Infants are not born with fully developed visual acuity. Newborns respond best to objects that are approximately one foot away, and are attracted brightly colored, or high-contrast, objects. They typically have a 90 degree field of vision.
By three months of age, babies develop coordination between both eyes. This allows them to perceive depth and learn about spatial relationships. Most infants can track moving objects. Colors, details and mobiles in motion fascinate babies this age and aid in visual development. They will begin to reach for toys in their field of vision.
3 to 6 Months
When a baby is three to six months of age, the retina in the eye is well developed and the infant’s visual acuity has improved enough to allow small details to be seen. Depth perception is also developing.
At six months of age, an infant’s eye is about two thirds the size of an adult eye. By this age, both eyes are working together and depth perception is continuing to improve.
1 Year Old
By the age of one, hand-eye coordination is practiced by children and can be enhanced by games involving pointing, grasping, tossing, placing and catching.
2 to 5 Years Old
A preschooler is typically eager to draw and look at pictures. Stories connected to images can help the child become engaged and helps coordinate vision and hearing.
Keep in mind that as your child progresses through school, the print in his or her textbook will decrease in size. Also, they may need to begin utilizing the chalkboard or a computer monitor for some assignments.