- Dr. Brett Hines
Just For Kids
Alert: Did you know that 1 out of every 4 children suffer from vision problems that interfere with learning?
Children's Vision Children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life, academically, socially, and athletically. High-quality eye care can break down these barriers and help enable your children to reach their highest potential! As a parent, make sure you are giving your children the eye care they need. Presented are guidelines from the American Optometric Association. Infants Vision Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn. But did you know your baby also has to learn to see? As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby's vision develop. At about age six months, you should take your baby to your doctor of optometry for his or her first thorough eye examination. Things that the optometrist will test for include excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism and eye movement ability as well as eye health problems. These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be more easily corrected if treatment is begun early. Unless you notice a need, or your doctor of optometry advises you otherwise, your child's next examination should be around age three, and then again before he or she enters school. During the first four months of life, your baby should begin to follow moving objects with the eyes and reach for things, first by chance and later more accurately, as hand-eye coordination and depth perception begin to develop. To help, use a nightlight or other dim lamp in your baby's room; change the crib's position frequently and your child's position in it; keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby's focus, about eight to twelve inches; talk to your baby as you walk around the room; alternate right and left sides with each feeding; and hang a mobile above and outside the crib. Between four and eight months, your baby should begin to turn from side to side and use his or her arms and legs. Eye movement and eye/body coordination skills should develop further and both eyes should focus equally. Enable your baby to explore different shapes and textures with his or her fingers; give your baby the freedom to crawl and explore; hang objects across the crib; and play "patty cake" and "peek-a-boo" with your baby. From eight to twelve months, your baby should be mobile now, crawling and pulling himself or herself up. He or she will begin to use both eyes together and judge distances and grasp and throw objects with greater precision. To support development don't encourage early walking - crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination; give your baby stacking and take-apart toys; and provide objects your baby can touch, hold and see at the same time. From one to two years, your child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception will continue to develop and he or she will begin to understand abstract terms. Things you can do are encourage walking; provide building blocks, simple puzzles and balls; and provide opportunities to climb and explore indoors and out. There are many other affectionate and loving ways in which you can aid your baby's vision development. Use your creativity and imagination. Ask your doctor of optometry to suggest other specific activities. Preschool Vision During the infant and toddler years, your child has been developing many vision skills and has been learning how to see. In the preschool years, this process continues, as your child develops visually guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and the visual motor skills necessary to learn to read. As a parent, you should watch for signs that may indicate a vision development problem, including a short attention span for the child's age; difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination in ball play and bike riding; avoidance of coloring and puzzles and other detailed activities. There are everyday things that you can do at home to help your preschooler's vision develop, as it should. These activities include reading aloud to your child and letting him or her see what you are reading; providing a chalkboard, finger paints and different shaped blocks and showing your child how to use them in imaginative play; providing safe opportunities to use playground equipment like a jungle gym and balance beam; and allowing time for interacting with other children and for playing independently. By age three, your child should have a thorough optometric eye examination to make sure your preschooler's vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your doctor can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem. Here are several tips to make your child's optometric examination a positive experience:
Make an appointment early in the day. Allow about one hour.
Talk about the examination in advance and encourage your child's questions.
Explain the examination in your child's terms, comparing the E chart to puzzle and the instruments to tiny flashlights and a kaleidoscope.
Unless recommended otherwise, your child's next eye examination should be at age five. By comparing test results of the two examinations, your optometrist can tell how well your child's vision is developing for the next major step. . .into the school years. School-Age Vision A good education for your child means good schools, good teachers and good vision. Your child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. So when his or her vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer. The basic vision skills needed for school use are:
Near Vision. The ability to see clearly and comfortably at 10-13 inches.
Distance Vision. The ability to see clearly and comfortably beyond arm?s reach.
Binocular coordination. The ability to use both eyes together.
Eye movement skills. The ability to aim the eyes accurately, move them smoothly across a page and shift them quickly and accurately from one object to another.
Focusing skills. The ability to keep both eyes accurately focused at the proper distance to see clearly and the change focus quickly.
Peripheral awareness. The ability to be aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead.
Eye/hand coordination. The ability to use the eyes and hands together.
If any of these or other vision skills is lacking or does not functions properly, your child will have to work harder. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems. As a parent, be alert for symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision or visual processing problem. Be sure to tell your optometrist if you child frequently:
Loses their place while reading
Avoids close work
Holds reading material closer than normal
Tends to rub their eyes
Turns or tilts head to use one eye only
Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
Uses finger to maintain place when reading
Omits or confuses small words when reading
Consistently performs below potential
Attempts to brush away blurred vision
Blinking more than usual
Rubbing eyes frequently
Squinting when focusing on distant objects
Frowning excessively or tilting of the head from one side
Stumbling over small objects
Sensitivity to light
Red, swollen, or encrusted eyelids
Inflamed or watery eyes
Since vision changes can occur without you or your child noticing them, your child should visit the optometrist at least every two years, or more frequently, if specific problems or risk factors exist. If needed, the doctor can prescribe treatment including eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy. Vision screenings are done to separate those with and without possible vision problems. Screening results may indicate a potential need for further assessment. Remember, a school vision or pediatrician's screening is not a substitute for a thorough eye examination. Protective Eyewear Please don't overlook the importance of safety eyewear when playing sports. Each year, hundreds of men, women, and children are injured when playing sports. To help prevent sports eye injuries, athletes should use protective athletic eyewear whether or not prescription eyewear is needed. One choice is a sports frame with prescription or non-prescription polycarbonate lenses is another choice. Baseball or softball players who are hit in or near the eye, or suffer a blow to the head, should seek immediate care at a hospital emergency room or from an eye care professional. Children & Contact Lenses The important thing for parents and their children who wear contact lenses to remember is that contacts are prescribed medical devices. Contact lenses are not a cosmetic accessory. While the wearer may be happy about his or her new look, it's extremely important that the lenses be properly cleaned and worn according to the instruction of the optometrist. The level of maturity required to take care of contact lenses is reached at different ages for different people. Some of us never reach that maturity. This will determine if your child is ready to take care and be able to wear contacts more than their actual age. If the parent feels they are ready, then we are probably ready to start the process. Games for Kids This area contains puzzles and games geared for the younger audience. This is a great way to educate children about the eye. Please visit often as we will be adding new feature items as they are developed.