Seeing is succeeding

How poor vision can seriously impact a child’s path in life.

Today’s children are equipped with resources and learning materials older generations would never have fathomed. Still, with all these tools at their disposal, some children inexplicably fall behind. The unexpected reason may be an undetected vision problem. 

 “Vision is more than seeing clearly; it’s the ability to comfortably see, ensuring the front and back of the eye is healthy and process visual information. This means vision problems can lead to inefficiencies, possibly affecting a child’s overall performance in life,” said Dr. Radhika Chawla, Board Member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). 

Like many optometrists, she believes the consequences of poor vision for a child are greater than many parents may think, making annual, comprehensive eye exams crucial for children as they learn and develop. These exams go beyond the simple vision screenings performed in school or by a physician, as they can detect subtle vision and eye health problems with a variety of tools and tests.

“Since 80 per cent of learning is visual, poor vision can cause academic issues. A child may have difficulty reading books since they frequently lose their place or have a hard time focusing on numbers and letters. This limits their ability to use the information at their disposal, making it difficult to complete their work and other classroom activities,” stated Dr. Chawla.  

Children with undetected vision problems may have a hard time solving puzzles, recognizing letters and numbers and writing since their vision does not allow them to perform these visual tasks with ease. When a child cannot take advantage of the available information and resources, they may fail to learn at the rate of their peers. This may cause frustration, making them feel less capable than their classmates. 

Declining academic performance is not the only area of a child’s life that can be hit hard by a vision problem.

“Sometimes poor vision affects a child’s social behaviour,” warned Dr. Chawla. “Certain vision problems can result in symptoms similar to those identified with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When a child has trouble focusing, they may not pay close attention to details or become easily distracted, showing overlapping symptoms to ADHD.” 

Poor vision can take a toll on a child’s social skills (i.e. lack of eye contact) and interactions, since they feel unable to try new things due to limited vision. It can also affect a child’s ability to participate in physical activities, and may lead to frequent falls, trips, bumps and bruises due to their lack of coordination.

“The visual system contributes to gross and fine motor skills. A child with a vision problem may find it difficult to play on the playground, perform close work accurately and even participate in sports,” explained Dr. Chawla. 

Signs and symptoms of a vision problem may include squinting, headaches, dizziness or nausea. They may also rub or touch their eyes excessively and have a strong reaction to light.

Additionally, some children may exhibit lesser known symptoms, such as poor handwriting and mistaking the letters “p” for “q” and “b” for “d”. 

Since vision impacts every aspect of a child’s life, “It’s important for parents to know the importance of annual comprehensive eye exams to identify early signs of a vision problem, since children very rarely alert their parents that they are experiencing any difficulties visually. A child won’t know they have a vision problem since they assume their vision is normal,” remarked Dr. Chawla.
OAO recommends every child receive a comprehensive eye exam starting at six months, again at age three, and every year thereafter. With one in four children having a vision problem, an eye exam may be the key to unlocking a child’s full potential. 

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