Parents are often satisfied with the vision screenings that are performed in school or at the doctor's office during yearly well child visits. These screenings typically involve the child reading lines on a chart in order to measure distance acuity. In other words, these screenings only test for nearsightedness. They tell you whether or not your child can see things at a distance. In order to get the most accurate picture of your child's vision, you should see an eye doctor instead of relying on screenings.
Types of Vision Problems in Children
Children who have undetected vision problems can have learning problems, but vision problems are not considered learning disabilities. There are far more vision problems that can affect a child's learning than simply not being able to see long distances.
- Refractive Errors—Nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia) are two kinds of refractive vision problems. Refractive errors are fairly common and are easily corrected with glasses.
- Functional—If your child is struggling in the classroom, it could be related to a functional vision problem. Functional vision is how a child's eyes function and how the brain works to control the eyes. An example of a functional vision issue would be if your child's eyes don't stay aligned during reading. This is called convergence insufficiency and often has symptoms like headaches and double vision. A child could still have perfect vision and suffer from functional vision problems.
- Perceptual—Visual perception is how the child's brain makes sense of what they see. If a child has a hard time recognizing words, forming mental images, completing puzzles and if they often lose their place while reading and writing, they may have a perceptual vision problem. They can easily pass a typical vision screening and still have perception problems.
- Color Vision Deficiency—If a child is color blind, they will have difficulty completing tasks that involve distinguishing certain colors in the classroom.
Symptoms of an Undiagnosed Vision Problem
The most common vision problem in children is myopia, or the ability to see far distances. Since other types of vision problems are rare and screening for them is expensive, schools and pediatricians don't screen for them. Some eye doctors won't even screen for certain conditions unless there are symptoms. A few symptoms that may indicate an undiagnosed vision problem are:
- Crossed eyes
- Poor eye hand coordination
- Difficulty remembering what was read
- Blurry or double vision
- Covers one eye
- Reads close to book
It is beneficial for all children to have a complete eye exam before starting kindergarten. Being proactive and finding an eye problem before it affects your child's education can save frustration for everyone. If a problem is detected, it can usually be solved with glasses, techniques to help with the specific problem or occupational therapy.
Contact an optometrist from a place like Quality Eye Care if you have other vision-related questions.