Experts estimate that 10 percent of preschoolers have a vision problem significant enough to impact learning, and being nearsighted or farsighted aren’t the only problems you can have with your vision. Colorblindness is also common, as is astigmatism, which causes blurred vision at any distance.
These are all issues with the structure of the cornea and lens or with the retina. Even if none of these issues are present, a person could still have trouble seeing effectively if their eyes don’t work together well. Eye teaming, tracking, and focusing are all crucial visual skills for learning, as are hand-eye coordination and visual perception (the ability to mentally process what the eyes see).
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Children with vision problems are unlikely to tell their teachers and parents because they don’t realize the source of the problem. It’s crucial, therefore, for us adults to watch the children in our care for symptoms such as:
If several of these symptoms sound a lot like the symptoms of ADHD and dyslexia, that’s no accident. Not being able to focus on close objects or use the eyes together as a team can make it unpleasant and frustrating to try to concentrate on their work. This gives the child the appearance of having a disorder like ADHD. In fact, many children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD when they really just have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Up to 80 percent of the learning children do is through their eyes, so having an undiagnosed and untreated vision problem can have far-reaching effects on their education, confidence, and ability to socialize. Unlike adults, kids might not know how to explain what’s wrong. They don’t know how other people see, they just know that even though trying to read words or stay focused on people’s faces is physically uncomfortable, they get in trouble for not doing it.
This frustrating situation leads them to act out and disengage from learning and other people, which is a tragedy. Luckily, however, it’s a tragedy that can be averted with comprehensive eye exams and correct treatment.
Unlike the simple screening done by a school nurse, a comprehensive eye exam involves checking for color blindness, eye alignment (teaming), ocular motility (tracking), and depth perception in addition to doing the standard E-chart visual acuity test. We would also check that the structures of your child’s eye look normal and healthy.
Whether or not you suspect your child has a vision problem, we’d love to see them this summer to make sure their vision is working well or to start planning treatment for a vision problem.