By Evan Fischer
Although it isn’t entirely common for children to develop vision problems, it’s not totally uncommon, either. And since people predominantly use their sense of sight to interact with the world, it is imperative that you address any potential vision problems as soon as possible so that they can be treated. Even toddlers need their vision to cope with the environment around them, especially as they learn to walk. But once your child reaches school age, this cardinal sense becomes even more important. The reason is that most classroom materials are presented visually. The ability to read and write is crucial to the learning process in our schools, so if your child can’t see the blackboard (or the page in front of him), it could cause serious academic problems, not to mention a high level of frustration. So you need to take your child for regular eye exams and watch for these telltale signs of vision problems.
- Unable to focus. It can be hard to tell if infants are having vision problems because it can take 6-8 months for vision to fully develop (until which time your baby may not be able to properly focus). But if your child is nearing the one-year mark and still seems to be having trouble focusing or using visual skills, you should definitely talk to a doctor to see if there might be some kind of problem. It is important to keep in mind that all children develop at different rates, but there is a general timeline you can go by and in some cases, early treatment can make a big difference.
- Bumping into things. Toddlers are naturally going to bump into things as they get their bearings on wobbly little legs. But over time these mishaps should become less common. If you think that your toddler is having too many run-ins with the furniture, perhaps it’s time to get his vision checked.
- Amblyopia. This is more commonly referred to as “lazy eye” and it occurs when the pathway between the brain and the eye doesn’t develop properly (often in one eye only). It is the most common reason for vision loss in children and it is usually easily identified because the weaker eye tends to turn in or out as the body naturally depends on the stronger eye. However, this indicator may not be present. So look for signs that the eyes are not working together, and watch for problems with depth perception or other indicators of weak vision.
- Cataracts. Sometimes babies are born with cataracts and in some cases they develop early in life. The cause is often unknown (although it may be an inherited condition), but it is important that cataracts be diagnosed, analyzed, and treated (generally with surgery) as soon as possible to ensure that vision develops normally in both eyes. If cataracts go untreated, the brain will favor the healthy eye (which can lead to amblyopia).
- Dropping grades. So many kids these days are diagnosed with learning disorders like ADD and dyslexia that you may first assume poor grades are the result of one of these common disorders. But it could be due to vision problems. The only real way to tell is to have your child tested by an ophthalmologist. In some cases, kids that do have vision problems simply don’t want to wear their glasses at school, and you can get to the bottom of this by asking their teachers. If they don’t like the way their glasses look, the easy solution is contact lenses (at least for older kids such as Acuvue.) So talk to your eye doctor about the possibility.
About the Author:
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.