Being able to see well and process visual images effectively are important factors for a child’s success in school. Knowing what to watch for can help parents recognize potential vision problems in their children.
Vision problems in young children tend to present themselves between 18 months and 4 years of age.
The most common problems in this age group are crossed or wandering eyes, and an uneven ability to focus. This means one eye may see well up close, while the other eye focuses better at a distance.
If one eye is more effective than the other at a young age, the brain will concentrate on that eye and ignore images from the weaker eye.
Over time, the loss of vision in the weak eye can become permanent. So it is important to get treatment for crossed or lazy eyes at a young age.
The American Optometric Association recommends that all children have a thorough eye exam by an eye doctor by 3 years of age. This exam will test basic vision, and will also check to be sure the child’s vision is developing normally and that there are no signs of eye disease.
An exam at this age gives children the opportunity to receive treatment or corrective lenses to help them be visually ready to start school.
Once they enter school, good vision becomes an important factor in a child’s ability to learn and keep up with class work.
In addition to just being able to see, a child needs to have a variety of vision skills which include:
• Seeing clearly at a variety of distances.
• Focusing easily at different distances so they can see a smart board at the front of the room and a paper on the desk.
• Tracking across a line of text while reading, or following a moving object while playing games.
• Using both eyes together to judge distances and see depth.
• Coordinating between eyes and hands when drawing, writing or playing sports.
• Perceiving patterns and shapes such as distinguishing between letters.
Many schools offer eye exams which are simple checks of basic vision. It is important to remember that these exams are not intended to replace regular eye exams to detect more complex vision problems or eye diseases.