There's more to healthy vision than 20/20 eyesight!

Children's Vision

More than 98 percent of all infants are born with normal, healthy eyes. Unfortunately, the normal health and structure of the eyes do not guarantee that your child will be able to use those eyes efficiently in the world he/she must see and interpret. The classroom into which your child enters around the age of six demands much of the visual system. Every child must develop many visual abilities and skills before entering school if he/she is to be successful there. The pre-school years are the playground for learning and refining the visual abilities and skills necessary for academic, social and athletic achievement.

Numerous studies have shown that freedom of eye movements and the ability to get visual attention on targets for inspection are directly related to reading readiness. These visual abilities will not teach a child to read, but when these abilities are present, the child will be more prepared for instruction from the teacher. Some children will not learn to read because they have no interest in reading. The majority of children who fail to achieve reading skills often demonstrate problems in the freedom and control of eye movements. Your child does not need to experience these difficulties. Instead, freedom and control of eye movements enhance the development of intellectual potential.

As a concerned and caring parent or caregiver, what can you do to ensure your child's vision develops normally and adequately? First of all, you need to understand that humans are not born with good vision, just the basic structures necessary for vision development. Besides good health and proper nutrition, the infant requires stimulation of these structures through interaction with his/her environment. Movements of the body are vital for proper integration of the eyes with the body as well as with all of the senses.

Included on our website are several links to organizations where you will find additional and pertinent information about children's vision. In the paragraphs below we will review several important concepts we believe are integral to an understanding of vision and the services we provide for you and your family.

Sight vs. Vision

Understanding your child's vision starts with differentiating sight from vision. Sight is merely what results from the eye's response to light. Sight involves receiving information through the eyeball. Most of us are born with sight. What the brain does with the light information is more complex and is called vision. Vision results from actively interpreting and understanding the light information made available through the eyes. Vision is understanding what we see through integration with the other senses, movement, balance and our previous experiences. It is a learned process.

Does your child have a learning-related vision problem?

It is estimated that 80 percent of learning in the classroom occurs using the visual system. Reading, spelling, writing, copying and keyboarding are the activities students utilize during the school years. They perform these activities day after day for several hours every day. Each involves visual skills of seeing quickly and understanding visual information, frequently less than arm's length from the eyes (nearpoint).

Many students' visual abilities just are not up to the level of the demands of these types of learning situations. Clear eyesight is not all that is required for these nearpoint tasks. Children must have a variety of scanning (eye movements), focusing and visual coordination (binocular) abilities for learning and for comprehending reading material. If these visual abilities have not developed or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children typically react in one or a combination of ways:

  • They avoid near visual work entirely, or as much as possible.
  • They attempt to complete the work anyway, but with lowered understanding.
  • They often experience discomfort, fatigue and short attention span.
  • They adapt by becoming nearsighted, or by suppressing the vision of one eye.

Visual stress reactions can help explain the discomfort, fatigue, changes in behavior, compromised eyesight and declining academic performance that often indicate a learning-related vision problem.

Signs of vision problems

  • Holding books and papers closely
  • Child tilts head extremely during writing and reading tasks
  • Child covers one eye while reading
  • Child squints during near work
  • Poor posture during near and desk activities
  • Your child moves his/her head back and forth while reading
  • Poor attention span
  • Drowsiness after near activities
  • Homework taking longer than expected
  • Child reports blurring or double while reading or writing
  • Loss of place shifting the eyes from the desk to the book or from the desk to the board
  • Child reverses letters and/or numbers
  • Omission of words when reading or writing
  • Skips or repeats words
  • Misaligns digits in columns
  • Declining comprehension during reading

What is a behavioral optometrist?

Behavioral optometrists spend years in post-graduate, continuing education to master the complex visual programs prescribed to prevent, treat and enhance visual performance. Not all optometrists practice behavioral optometry, which includes developmental and functional optometry. WE DO!

  • We perform a full series of nearpoint vision tests because most vision problems especially learning-related vision problems, begin within arm's reach.
  • We provide full vision care including vision therapy and visual guidance.
  • We will see your child at regular, scheduled intervals to determine his/her progress.

Evaluation

Since vision is learned, it can be guided, altered and remediated. If our optometrists identify a vision problem in a child, we attempt to understand how long the problem has existed and how other sensory motor systems are affected. Next, we determine treatment options and a priority of the recommended treatments. Sometimes this requires referral to other professionals.

Our optometric examination of your child includes the following components and tests:

  1. History: medical, developmental, educational
  2. Visual acuity: distance and near
  3. Eye movements
  4. Binocular tests at distance and near
  5. Color vision
  6. Internal and external ocular health
  7. Refraction
  8. Discussion of findings
  9. Recommendations

Typically our recommendations include one or more of the following:

  • Corrective (compensatory ) glasses: Prescribed for refractive conditions like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and/or astigmatism, corrective lenses improve how light focuses in the back of the eye. Examples include glasses for seeing the board more clearly at school or glasses that improve clarity of words and numbers on paper and computer screens.
  • Therapeutic glasses: In order to change how a child's visual system is seeing and interpreting light information, we will prescribe therapeutic lenses. Examples include prismatic glasses which promote awareness of objects and re-integration of the eyes, hands and body, or glasses that ease the focusing burden enough to facilitate single vision in cases of accommodative esotropia.
  • Preventive glasses: If we are lucky enough to see a child early in the development of a vision problem, preventive lenses will be prescribed. For example, children who experience periodic blurring of distance vision and measure (during our optometric testing) overconvergence tendencies while engaged with near vision activities, will benefit from preventive glasses. Why? Because left untreated, he/she will develop nearsightedness (blurry distance vision).
  • Vision Therapy: Vision therapy is an individually programmed, developmentally appropriate sequence of activities and procedures that develops, extends and enhances all of the visual abilities. In vision therapy, patients learn to use their visual systems more efficiently and effectively.
  • Referral: If we identify problems that interfere with vision but do not fall within our area of expertise, we refer to the appropriate professional(s). In many cases we recommend specific professionals who have gained our trust and contributed to the resolution of other patients' vision difficulties. Our referrals include occupational therapists, nutritionists, educational consultants, psychologists, educational kinesthesiologists, reading tutors, perceptual motor therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, physicians, osteopaths, homeopaths and naturopaths.
  • Follow-up and Annual Care: Our optometrist will discuss follow-up care and the importance of regular, scheduled appointments. The best way to assure your child's vision development is through regular, scheduled appointments because we will have the best opportunity to detect and treat vision problems before they occur.