We’re guessing your list probably includes vinyl recovery beds, jars full of wooden tongue depressors, and the big E eye chart. For over a century and a half, that big E chart (officially called the Snellen chart) has been an excellent diagnostic tool for identifying nearsightedness…but not much else. There are many other ways a child’s vision might not be working properly, which is why it’s so important for kids to get comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist!
Being able to see clearly and perform visual tasks well is hugely important to a child’s education, social development, and even athletic performance. Up to 80% of learning is visual, with all those whiteboards and textbooks and writing assignments to look at, among many other things.
What does the Snellen eye chart miss? Basically any vision problem that isn’t nearsightedness. A comprehensive eye exam, on the other hand, will also test for farsightedness, astigmatism, color blindness, visual perception, hand-eye coordination, and important binocular vision skills like focusing, tracking, and teaming. Any of these problems can negatively impact learning if they go untreated.
Unlike adults, children don’t have the vocabulary or understanding to recognize what “good eyesight” is supposed to be like. They only have their own experience to go off of, so if it hurts to focus on close-up work for long, they probably won’t know why. They might believe they’re not smart enough for school. They might, in fact, display a lot of the symptoms common in learning disorders, and without a comprehensive eye exam, there’s a good chance they’ll be misdiagnosed with one.
Some eye problems are easy to spot, such as an eye that points the wrong direction. Other symptoms are more subtle, including reading comprehension problems, difficulty completing schoolwork, a short attention span (particularly for close-up tasks), frequent headaches, a habit of covering one eye, frequent blinking and eye rubbing, and fidgeting.
Every child should have a comprehensive eye exam early in their schooling so that any eye problems can be caught and treated quickly. With the new school year starting, this is a great time to schedule an eye exam for your child. We can either rule out or identify any vision problems, even the less obvious ones, and determine the best steps to take next!