According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), one-in-four children have a vision problem. Since 80 percent of a school’s curriculum is taught visually, vision problems can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn. While many schools conduct basic eye screenings, these are not a substitute for a thorough eye exam by an optometrist. The AOA recommends eye exams at six months, three years, before first grade, and every two years thereafter until the age of eighteen. If you’re concerned that your child might have a vision problem, here are some warning signs to look out for.
Sitting Too Close to the TV
While it’s a myth that sitting too close to the TV can cause vision problems, this habit could be a sign that your child is having difficulty seeing. If your child sits too close to the television set or holds reading materials too close to their eyes, it could mean that he or she is nearsighted and is having difficulty seeing things that are far away. If your child dislikes reading, skips lines or loses their place when reading, or makes errors when copying text from one page to another, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with an optometrist.
Frequent Eye Rubbing
Although children tend to rub their eyes when they’re tired or upset, there’s a difference between occasional eye rubbing and incessant rubbing whenever he or she is trying to concentrate. Incessant rubbing of the eyes is a tell-tale sign of eye fatigue. If your child’s eyes seem overly fatigued and you’re sure they’re getting enough rest, their eyes could be tired from working too hard to focus. Squinting is also something to look out for; it’s a classic sign of a vision problem, as squinting is used to decrease blur and focus on images.
Extreme Sensitivity to Light
If your child’s eyes are particularly sensitive to indoor lighting, sunshine, and camera flashes, they could have photophobia. Children with photophobia, or extreme sensitivity to light, can develop headaches and nausea. If your child avoids going outdoors, squints in the sun, or complains about eye pain caused by bright lights, you should make an appointment with an optometrist—be sure to write down the frequency of the pain, as light sensitivity can be a symptom of several different eye conditions.
Closing One Eye to Read or Watch TV
If you notice your child frequently closes one eye when watching TV, reading a book, or using a computer, it could indicate a refractive binocular vision problem that interferes with the ability of the two eyes to work together as a team. If your child’s eyes seem crossed or “lazy”, it could be a sign that his or her eyes aren’t working together as they should be. Unfortunately, eyes that don’t work together can affect your child’s ability to read, learn, and enjoy various forms of entertainment.
Receiving Lower Grades than Usual
If your child has always been an exemplary student and suddenly struggles in school, it could be a sign that they’re having a hard time seeing what the teacher writes on the board. In most cases, children will be too shy or scared to tell a parent or teacher about their vision problems, resulting in them falling behind in school. While some teachers and schools are quick to blame behavioral conditions, such as ADHD, for poor performance in school, glasses or contact lenses could be the solution to your child’s poor performance in the classroom.