What Is Special about Children’s Vision?
A child’s vision is special because when we are born we have very limited vision, in fact, newborns don’t even see in color. The cells in the eye have yet to develop and make the necessary connections to the brain. After light begins to penetrate the eye it begins cell development and makes millions of connections to the brain. It is important to make sure that visual stimulus is properly presented to the eyes because this ensures proper development of both the brain and the eyes. (AOA)
We examine infants. No communication is required to check for eye health and vision. There are many ways to detect if a child is seeing correctly for their age and developmental status. We examine proper eye alignment as well as look for any anatomical abnormality before a child can communicate. Many eye related conditions can only be remedied in early development. Which is why “The American Optometric Association guidelines recommend that all children have a complete vision and eye health examination at the age of 6 months, 3 years, upon entering kindergarten, and routine vision care (every 2 years) thereafter throughout their school years.” (http://www.aoa.org)
Reports have estimated that up to 25% of students in grades K – 6 have vision-related problems. Many of these problems may contribute to poor school performance and frustration. The visual system matures rapidly during the first few years and it is important to identify any problems that may interfere with normal cognitive and visual development. When addressed early in life these problems can often be rectified.
A comprehensive eye examination will assess visual acuity, refractive status, ocular health, eye tracking, eye focusing, and eye teaming. Visual acuity measures how clearly a child sees objects or letters. Refractive status measures for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. The child is evaluated for any eye health problems, including congenital anomalies. Eye tracking is the ability of the eyes to fixate and smoothly follow objects or printed words. Eye focusing is the ability to efficiently change and sustain focus while reading. Eye teaming is the ability to coordinate both eyes accurately and without fatigue or excessive effort and it’s required to see in 3D.
Common Childhood Vision Problems
Amblyopia is most common vision problem in kids and is often mistakenly called lazy eye. It results when the eye and the brain do not communicate properly. This causes the visual system to not fully mature which results in visual impairment. In other words, amblyopia is a developmental condition not just an eye problem. Parents are often surprised when a child is diagnosed with amblyopia because children often have no complaints. The good news is that amblyopia is almost always treatable if caught early enough, however, if it is missed it can cause permanent vision impairment.