How well can your child see? You may think it would be obvious, but that can actually be a very difficult question to answer. Without obvious signs such as squinting or sitting close to the TV, vision problems are easy to miss. It happens all the time. Vision problems often show up in unexpected ways. In fact, children who can’t see well are often misdiagnosed with learning or behavioral disabilities. They often find it difficult to focus, and have to work so much harder to keep up with the other children - whether it’s in the classroom or on the soccer field. That can lead to fatigue, frustration and a short attention span.
Here are some of the signs to watch for
Struggles with reading, writing or learning
Performs below ability level
Loses place while reading or uses finger/marker to guide eyes
Places head close to books or desk while reading or writing
Has a short attention span for age
Dislikes or avoids close or detailed work (Lego, drawing, etc.)
Has poor eye-hand coordination
Has eyes that cross or turn in and out, or move independently of each other
Turns or tilts head to use only one eye; covers or closes one eye
Blinks or rubs eyes excessively
Suffers from headaches, nausea, dizziness
Complains of burning, itching or blurry eyes
Has double vision
The sooner a vision problem is detected, the more likely it can be treated and even reversed. That’s why it’s so important for your child to have regular eye exams with a doctor of optometry. Alberta optometrists recommend children have their first comprehensive eye exam between the ages of six and nine months, their second eye exam between the ages of two and five years and one eye exam every year after that.
During an eye exam, a doctor of optometry will look for:
Lazy eye, crossed eyes
Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism
Eye coordination, tracking and depth perception
Alberta Health Care covers the cost of annual eye exams for children until they turn 19. Kindergarten students are also eligible for a free pair of eyeglasses through Eye See…Eye Learn®. The program’s goal is to ensure all children are given the chance to reach their full learning potential.
Dr. Joanna Phillips is a Doctor of Optometry. For more information and to find a doctor of optometry, visit the Alberta Association of Optometrists’ website, optometrists.ab.ca/find-an-optometrist.
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