It’s back to school season, and if you’re sending kids to school, you’ve probably had a lot on your mind! From shopping for school supplies, to meeting the teacher, and everything in between, a new school year comes with a lot of preparation and anticipation. One thing you’ll likely have on your radar as the school year rolls along is your child’s performance in class. What you may not consider is that trouble reading, avoiding school work, or poor grades could be signs of a bigger issue- poor eyesight.
We chatted with our friends and eye experts at UAB Callahan Eye and learned that the school setting provides many opportunities to gauge whether or not your child’s vision is on-track. Read on for our conversation with Dr. Marcela Frazier to learn all about the signs to watch for and how to care for your child’s eye health.
The Signs of Eye Trouble
Let’s start with the signs to look for. If your child is having a hard time seeing or dealing with other eye issues at school, they may not always notice it or tell you what’s going on. Fortunately, there are some signs that might clue you in.
- Frequent headaches or becoming tired after reading can be a sign of hyperopia (farsightedness). Children in this category may fall behind in reading comprehension or avoid reading tasks altogether.
- Squinting or closing one eye can be a coping mechanism for children who see blurry or double.
- Blinking or rubbing eyes may be a sign of dry eyes or blurry vision.
- Poor school performance may be a result of eye issues. Dr. Frazier points out that while adults know what our eyesight should be like, kids don’t always have a concept of poor vision. They may not realize they can’t accurately see what their teacher is writing on the board.
- Holding electronic devices or books too close to eyes could be a sign of a vision problem like astigmatism or myopia (nearsightedness).
Getting Your Kid’s Eyes Checked
If you notice any of the signs above, don’t panic! An eye exam will reveal any issues going on. Even if you don’t see any of these signs, many pediatricians and daycares now perform routine vision screenings that can give you a head’s up. Want to be proactive? Children can have a full exam as early as six months, or even earlier if a serious problem is suspected. If there is a family history of eye issues like strabismus (eye turn), amblyopia (lazy eye), or refractive error (needing glasses), a full eye exam is recommended early on to ensure your child’s vision and ocular health are normal.
How Is A Child’s Eye Exam Different?
As we all know, it can take a lot of help for a child to sit still! The tools used for a child’s eye exam are definitely more entertaining than the ones we adults see. For example, when children are young and do not recognize letters yet, visual-acuity charts with commonly-know pictures (such as apple, house, circle, etc) are used to measure vision. Children as young as two years old can usually identify or match these pictures. There are also multiple toys used throughout the pediatric eye exam to keep the child engaged. Similar to an adult exam, children do need to have their eyes dilated. This allows the doctor to get accurate measurements of the eye and determine whether or not they need glasses. While kids may not love the drops, a reward of stickers awaits them at the end!
When my son was a year old, we were concerned about a blocked tear duct that he had from birth. I was confident that we would be in good hands at Callahan, but I wasn’t so sure how my rowdy little boy would cooperate. Once we got there, it was clear that they knew how to cater to kids. From the play area in the waiting room to the doctor’s gentle but confident approach, our visit was a breeze. I was even able to hold him during the exam to help calm his nerves. What really makes things go smoothly is that pediatric eye doctors love children and enjoy making the experience playful and fun!
Corrective Options for Your Child
So, your child’s eyesight needs correcting. Now what? Callahan can help you choose the best frames or contact lenses for your child. Not sure which route to take? Depending on the maturity of the child, some as young as eight or nine years can wear contact lenses with adult supervision. Even some infants wear contacts that their parents put in and out when medically necessary. If your child plays sports or does other physical activities, sports glasses can be a great way to go and are widely available. While some children may need eye lid or eye muscle surgery early on, procedures that correct vision, such as Lasik, are not recommended until the age of 20, since the refractive error of the eye can still be changing.
Ready to Schedule a Visit?
UAB Callahan Eye has several convenient locations to serve you and your family. Simply visit their website or call them at 1(844)UAB-EYES to get started!