Concerned, loving and conscientious parents can be counted on to visit the clinic or family doctor (pediatrician) when their child is visibly suffering from flu-like symptoms or in the case of other ailments that are physically apparent, but what about the invisible complaints? What about the conditions that have the innate ability to hide from the naked eye?

It has been found that approximately 80% of how children learn in the first twelve years of life is visual and yet only about 6% of parents notice vision difficulties. According to a survey by the Canadian Association of Optometrists, 61% of parents mistakenly thought they would know if their child had vision weaknesses. This is not to admonish parents but to let them know that it is a very common oversight for lack of a better word.

If a child is suffering from lower grades in school it is imperative that a team-type approach is taken, beginning with the least invasive path. Of course, there are other considerations but good vision with regards to learning is a crucial starting point. There is a long list of things to watch out for aside from lower grades when it comes to vision difficulties. A partial list includes; the child found to be frequently daydreaming, often rubbing their eyes, squinting or covering one eye, complaining of headaches, dizziness. Also, holding a book too close or tilting the head in order to read and always using their finger as a guide while reading are all signs to watch out for.

Often the child himself/herself doesn’t realise that they have a vision problem because they have no bench mark and, therefore, no idea what perfect vision is. The result of poor eyesight can be a fidgety, disinterested child who falls behind simply because they are not able to remain engaged the way the rest of the class is. They wrongly assume they see the same way everyone else does. Poor vision can also wreak havoc on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The combination of results can have an impact, not only on learning and grades but on quality of life.

Canadian ophthalmologists recommend that children start having eye examinations at the age of three and continue on a yearly basis for the rest of their life. An earlier examination would be warranted if the infant or toddler appears to be cross-eyed or demonstrates similarly obvious symptoms. Luckily, we in Quebec have access to eye care specialists whose examination fees are covered under RAMQ (once a year exam, not including drops). When it comes to children, it is best when calling for an appointment with either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist that an inquiry is made as to whether they are equipped to test children. Otherwise, getting a referral from a family doctor or pediatrician is recommended.

Poor vision is not always a condition that is treated by corrective eye glasses. It really depends on the root cause of the problem. There are eye function problems where the eyes tend not to align while reading, lazy eye, perception problems and color blindness along with common near and far-sightedness, astigmatism as well as various eye disease(s). Depending on the problem some functional difficulties require vision therapy, medication or no intervention, as opposed to having to wear corrective eyeglasses.

Visiting will provide further insight into the correlation between vision and learning as well as discuss the importance of fundamental development and early detection. The Doctors of Optometry Canada have earmarked the month of October as Children’s Vision Month but why wait until then when prevention can start right away.

About the Author:

Lesley Fletcher is an author of four books and a freelance writer living in the suburbs of Montreal. She is currently working on her next book. More on her books and art, as well as contact information can be found at her website: Spirit, Soul, Life.