Vision is integral to a child’s brain development and growth. Babies learn to use their eyes — from focusing to movement and using both eyes as a team — over time, just like they learn to walk and talk. As an infant grows, the brain is also learning how to use visual information sent from the eyes. Undiagnosed vision conditions or impairments affect how the brain uses the eyes to see; the longer the problem goes on, the more a child’s brain learns to accommodate the problem. Uncorrected vision can create social, academic and even athletic barriers throughout a child’s life.
Since vision develops over time and is so important to helping a child fully develop and interact with the surrounding world, identifying any potential visual problems as early as possible is absolutely vital.
During infancy, signs of possible eye or vision problems including eyes that appear to constantly turn in or out, excessive tearing, red or encrusted eye lids, sensitivity to light or appearance of a white pupil — especially in flash photography where an eye would normally appear red.
Vision problems can affect a child’s performance and enjoyment at school. A child does as much as 80% of his or her learning through the eyes. Children who suffer from eye problems may avoid reading or other visual work, may strain or squint to see the chalkboard, or complete work with a lower level of comprehension. Straining and squinting can cause fatigue and headaches and discomfort. Undetected vision problems have similar behaviors and symptoms normally associated with learning disabilities like ADD or ADHD.
In addition to squinting or experiencing frequent headaches, these additional symptoms can indicate a vision problem:
• Rubbing their eyes
• Blinking frequently
• Squinting or straining to see
• Covering one eye
• Tilting head to one side
• Holding materials close to the face in order to read
• An eye turning in or out
Children may not tell you there’s a problem because they might believe that how they see the world is how everyone sees.
Vision changes frequently during school years through the age of 18; mild vision changes may continue into adulthood. Regular eye exams and eye care are important to detect and treat vision problems. If you notice these or other vision-related problems, contact your eye doctor to schedule an exam.