As much as 80% of the learning a child does occurs through visual processing – think reading, writing, copying work from the blackboard and using computers. This means that good vision is essential. When a child’s vision is not functioning properly, his education can suffer.
In fact, undetected and untreated eye disorders can result in delayed reading skills and poorer academic outcomes, and may even lead to some children being labelled as having ADHD as vision problems can elicit some of the same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to this condition.
Vision can also play an important role in sports performance. Whether kicking a ball in the back yard or participating in team sports at school, every activity has unique visual demands and challenges. Specific visual skills needed for sports include clear distance vision, good depth perception, a wide field of vision and effective hand-eye coordination – children with undiagnosed visual difficulties can easily become frustrated if they consistently underperform in sport.
In other developmental areas, such as understanding emotional cues, good vision is also crucial. Facial expression is a key means of communicating mood or intent, and children with poor vision may have difficulty recognising the finer details related to establishing emotional context.
Unfortunately, most children suffering from poor vision won’t report any symptoms as they think that everyone sees the same way they do. That is why it is important for parents (and teachers) to look for signs that may indicate a vision problem, and to have children’s eyes tested regularly. Experts recommend that children should have their first comprehensive eye examination at age three and, unless specifically advised otherwise by a specialist, they should continue to have their eyes tested every two years thereafter.
Signs that may indicate a vision problem include:
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Short attention span during visual tasks
- Avoiding reading and other close work
- Holding reading materials close to the face
- Slow reading speed and poor reading comprehension
- Frequent headaches
- Turning or tilting the head to use one eye only, or closing/covering one eye
- An eye turning in or out
- Seeing double
- Difficulty remembering, identifying or reproducing shapes
- Poor hand-eye coordination
If your child is performing poorly at school, struggles with sports or regularly acts out, don’t assume that he has a behavioural or learning disability – he may simply need a pair of specs!