Proper visual development is key to a child’s overall development. It is highly recommended that a child has an eye examination, as early as 3 years of age, if not earlier.
Children are usually born with fairly clear eyesight, but not vision. Vision is learned over time. When a child is born, the child goes through many steps to master critical visual skills.
The purpose of a vision evaluation is to look at a child’s visual skills, to evaluate whether they are performing at their age level. A child’s vision development is critical in determining how he or she will meet life’s demands.
Vision problems are a leading source of learning and academic difficulties. Many of these vision problems can be detected and corrected long before they interfere with a childs academic performance. Many of these vision problems are related to nearpoint stress and are undetected by a school nurse or paediatrician. Early intervention is very important.
An optometrist trained in working with a child can assess many important things about their vision. The behavioural optometrist is well trained at using a retinoscope to assess where and how well each eye is focusing on a target. There are devices that can also measure the child’s eyesight without the child saying anything.
The behavioural optometrist also evaluates the child’s eye movement (tracking) skills, the child’s ability to use the eyes together (binocularity), the ability to keep the eyes aligned as a target is moved inwards (convergence), the child’s ability to guide their hands to find a target, their balance, and their ability to move their eyes back and forth across the midline of their body. The optometrist can evaluate the child’s ability to change their focus from one target to another. These skill are all essential skills for success in school, sports and life in general. And, importantly, the optometrist can make sure that both eyes are healthy.
Many hidden vision problems are common in children and a missed eye or vision problem can lead to reduced performance at school and persist later in life.
Here are some examples of common signs and behaviours which may indicate visual acuity or visual processing problems in children.
If any of these signs or symptoms are noticed a full visual examination is recommended.