Most people assume that healthy children will have no vision problems. But this isn't always true.
My friend's child was exceptional in reading, drawing and other indoor activities but showed no interest in outdoor activities. In school, her teacher complained about lack of interest in studies.
My puzzled friend took her to a doctor who referred him to an ophthalmologist. When she was examined, the girl had a high myopia (short sightedness). Now after vision correction with glasses she hardly stays at home, says the girl's mother. This is a real eye opener, as many think that healthy children will have normal vision.
Many children start school without ever having an eye examination. Undiagnosed vision problems are a major cause of learning difficulties. This can lead to inattentiveness in school, which may be misinterpreted as behavioural issues or learning disabilities.
Most eye problems in a child are treatable, since the majority are refractive errors. Appropriate correction can restore their vision and help them develop normal binocular vision with depth perception.
The difficulty arises when the refractive error or visual problem is in one of the two eyes. This is a major problem and, if left uncorrected, the child develops lazy eye and squinting. If diagnosed early (before eight years) appropriate treatment like patching and visual stimulation can help restore vision.
Often the problem lies in convincing the parents. Many try alternative options and turn up late for proper treatment. Refractive error or a squint is not a disease but a developmental error. Appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure that the child has the visual skills needed to perform well in school. A child unable to see print or a blackboard can become frustrated, leading to poor academic performance. Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated as early as possible, while the child's vision system is still developing.
A child doesn't know or realise there is a correct way to see things. So don't expect him/her to discuss visual problems they might have. Keep an eye open to see if the child displays any symptoms and get him/her examined periodically by a qualified ophthalmologist.
Holding books too close to eyes
Constantly rubbing eyes
Irritated or teary eyes
Sitting/moving close to the board
Trying to copy from children next to them
Any unusual behaviour after going to school
Infants should have their first eye examination at six months of age. Additional exams at the age of 3 and 5-6 (just before they enter std. I).
School children should get their eyes screened every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses should be examined annually or as recommended by the doctor.
Premature babies need immediate eye examination followed by regular checkups to prevent early retinal problems. If untreated, they can end up with incurable blindness.
Children whose parents wear glasses and with a family history of squinting need regular follow-ups.