Develop your child’s vision to help their ability to learn
We all know that a child’s development can vary immensely from child to child. It is perhaps not as well known that a child’s vision also develops over time and can also vary from child to child.
Jacqueline Gattegno, a leading Smart Vision Optometrist at Eyes InDesign Bondi, explains the relationship between vision and learning; and why it is so important for parents to understand the difference between sight and vision.
Often it is not until children begin to read that we first notice they have a vision problem. This is the time when they start using their visual system more intensively to tune in to small details. The level of demand on visual skills required for reading increases throughout a child’s learning years.
Jacquie says, “it is important for parents to understand that children with excellent eyesight can still have significant vision-related learning difficulties. A child presenting vision skills concerns is more likely to have difficulty reading and understanding what they have read. The extra effort required can cause blurriness and discomfort, as well as preventing them from performing to their potential.”
“It is important that we understand the difference between sight and vision,” says Jacquie. “Eyesight essentially refers to the physical attributes and performance of the many organic components involved in the visual system. 20/20 vision is a commonly quoted measure of normal vision, yet it simply describes the sensitivity of the eye to see fine detail in the distance,” Jacquie says.
“Unlike eyesight, vision is a thought process, which emerges as an understanding of what is seen, where it is and how to react to it. It combines information from many sensory systems to create a perception of reality,” says Jacquie. “Vision describes a more dynamic and interactive process, essentially a whole information processing system developed through experience to gain understanding of the external visual space world.”
For example, for a person driving a car, vision is much more than reading license plates clearly at a distance. Vision is the total process whereby the spatial relationships between the cars are taken in and processed by the driver in order to guide the car safely to its destination, without an accident and with minimum stress. Vision judges the relative speeds of the other cars, and alerts the driver to a pedestrian stepping onto the road or another car at an intersection, or the door of a parked car opening.
Jacquie says, “therefore, some of the primary visual skills required for early readers include; Tracking: scanning from letter to letter, word to word, looking ahead and predicting text, moving from one line to the next. Focusing: maintaining clear focus at a particular point (e.g. a word on a page) and the ability to rapidly change focus from one point to another (e.g. from copying from the board to the book). Sequencing: recognising the order of numbers or letters in words, as well as left to right progression when reading and writing. Short Term Visual Memory: recalling information presented quickly; and Visual Discrimination: recognising subtle visual differences between letters (e.g. m/n) and words (e.g. was/saw or big/dig), reducing reversals and improving overall recognition.”
Some children complain about headaches. These can be caused by vision problems, which can signal a broader issue as well as distract them from their learning, and it can also cause them to strain to see the board at the front of the classroom.
“A comprehensive vision skills assessment takes about one hour and is crucial for detecting various eye conditions. This includes, Strabismus (misaligned eyes), Amblyopia (lazy eye), Myopia (near-sightedness), Hyperopia (far-sightedness), and Astigmatism,” says Jacquie.
Many children and teens have near-sighted or far-sighted vision problems. “These conditions can be treated with special glasses or contact lenses,” says Jacquie. Some children and teens may benefit from having contact lenses instead of eyeglasses. Contact lenses are a good choice for those who often play sports and feel uncomfortable wearing glasses. Children often wear glasses to help improve their vision and provide protection against vision loss.
“Having a vision problem can affect a child’s academic performance and quality of life,” says Jacquie, “being able to identify these symptoms can help prevent this from happening.
A few signs or symptoms that indicate your child may be experiencing vision problems and needs glasses include squinting, also known as a refractive error. A child might tilt his or her head to one side and depend on one eye to improve their vision. It could also be a sign that the eyes are not aligned properly or that there is a lazy eye. Sitting too closely to a television or holding a hand-held device too closely to the eyes can be signs of poor vision. Excessive rubbing of the eyes is also a common symptom of poor vision and can also be a sign of other conditions that cause vision problems. Complaining of eye pain or headaches are other common symptoms to take note of.
Due to the nature of our environment and the variety of technology devices that children use, children with visual disorders may have difficulty concentrating on their schoolwork. “Many parents don’t know that their child has a problem with their vision, which is why it’s important that they have a comprehensive vision skills assessment, annually,” says Jacquie. She concludes that whenever children show signs of lack of concentration or symptoms such as mentioned above, a visit to the optometrist is a must.
Smart Vision Optometry clinics are located in Sydney. Book a Smart Vision Comprehensive Vision Skills Assessment or Advanced Eye Health Test for any child or adult by calling the Mosman clinic (02) 9969 1600 or the Bondi clinic (02) 9365 5047, alternatively book an appointment online.
Written and syndicated by: YDMA News