Back to school

Back to school

Starting school or returning to school can be a daunting time for both parents and child. Today I hope to address the main concerns I get from parents.

Warning signs – What should I be looking for?

As an Optometrist my main concerns are that children are:

  1. Blissfully unaware of what normal vision is, they have no idea if what they are seeing isn’t what everyone else can see.
  2. For a child their world is very close, they do not have the need or desire to look into the distance to ‘admire the view’ when their toys, friends, school activities are all close at hand, so they are often unaware or unconcerned if they cannot see far away.
  3. A child will rarely close one eye to compare it to the other, either unaware or unconcerned if there is a difference between the two eyes.

To ensure you are not missing any visual abnormalities in your child, the most useful piece of advice I can give is to choose a far away target like a poster on a wall or the television standing at least 3m away (the eye test chart is set at 6m) and ask your child if they can see it clearly also ask them to cover each eye individually and see if there is any difference between how clearly they see?

Look out for these warning signs:

Do they regularly screw up their eyes?
Do they stand too close to the TV?
Do they hold their books/ toys very close to their eyes?
Have you noticed a squint ie does an eye drift outwards or inwards, especially when tired?
Do they blink excessively?

If any of the above apply to your child I would advise an eye examination with your Optometrist.

Eye examinations should start from around 2 1/2 to 3 years old (earlier if you have any concerns) and should be viewed with the same importance as regularly visiting your Dentist after all you only get one pair of eyes (you can replace your teeth!!).

How important is my child’s pre school screening appointment?

This may be your child’s first eye assessment, although it does not substitute a full eye examination it will highlight if your child can see normally, if there is a difference between their two eyes, if they have a squint and if they can see 3D properly.
I appreciate is not always practical to take your child to their designated appointment due to work or childcare commitments but if you cannot make the appointment you must take them for an eye examination at your Optometrist, to ensure there are no visual obstacles to their learning capabilities. 65% of the population are visual learners.

Reading abilities – how much is eye related?

Learning to read is a monumental task which can be daunting for both the child and the parents.  Eye sight directly affects not only your learning potential but also your sporting and musical abilities!
Can your child see the text clearly, are they tracking the words properly, is the text coming in and out of focus, is reading harder than it should be, are they getting headaches when reading? Are some fonts easier to read than others? Is it easier or harder to read on a coloured back ground?
If any of the above apply then I would highly recommend a visual stress assessment at an Optometrist with specialised children’s clinics.

A visual stress assessment will over and above a normal eye examination asses the eye muscles specific to reading and if needed advise a course of muscle strengthening exercises. We will also asses if a specific coloured overlay or spectacle lens may aid your child’s ability to process the information and therefore aid their reading ability.

5% of the population have their reading ability improved by using a specific coloured overlay or spectacle lens.

Eyewear for extra curricular activities

Your eyesight directly affects your sporting ability and good 3D vision is imperative. To ensure you child is enjoying and getting the most out of their hobbies, there are numerous options:

  • Contact lenses can be safely and successfully worn from 5 years old (again seek a child specialist Optometrist)
  • Prescription swimming goggles
  • Prescription sports goggles.

At Downes Opticians we specialise and thrive on aiding our young patients to achieve their optimal potential, we would be delighted to help you with any visual concerns. We provide specialist children’s clinics for; visual stress, coloured lens assessment, contact lenses and myopia management (slowing the progression of your child’s short sightedness) for further information please look to our website or get in touch. We look forward to welcoming you soon.