Vision problems of school-age children

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Vision problems are common among school-age kids. One study finds that one in four school-age children have vision problems that, if left untreated, can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school.

School-age children also spend a lot of time in recreational activities that require good vision but  playing outside or participating in a team sport may not be as fun if you can’t see well.

Warning signs of vision problems in kids

Refractive errors are the most common cause of vision problems among school-age children. Parents, as well as teachers, should be aware of these 10 signs that suggest that a child's vision needs correction:

Child raising their hand in class with a blurry blackboard view.

Blurry vision may be interfering with your child's ability to learn in school. Regular eye exams can detect and correct this and other vision problems.

  1. Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  2. Losing his place while reading or using a finger to guide his eyes when reading
  3. Squinting or tilting the head to see better
  4. Frequent eye rubbing
  5. Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing
  6. Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  7. Avoiding activities which require near vision, such as reading or homework, or distance vision, such as participating in sports or other recreational activities
  8. Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  9. Avoiding using a computer, because it "hurts his eyes"
  10. Receiving lower grades than usual

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor if your child exhibits any of these signs. A visit to the doctor may reveal that your child has myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism. These common refractive errors are easily corrected with children’s eyeglasses  or contact lenses.

Learning disabilities and vision

Learning disabilities are another concern with school-age children, and according to some estimates, learning disorders affect at least 1 in 10 schoolchildren.

If your child frequently reverses letters while reading or writing, exhibits poor handwriting, doesn’t like reading or has difficulty with it, writing or doing math, consistently confuses his left side for his right side or vice versa, can't verbally express himself or consistently behaves inappropriately in social situations, then seek help.

A multidisciplinary approach is usually the best way to find the cause of learning problems. Consultation with your child's teacher should be the first step. But it's wise also to consult with an eye doctor who specializes in eye exams for children and your pediatrician for additional advice and possible referral to specialists.

Children’s eye exams: How often?

School-age children need an exam every two years if they have no visual problems. But if your child requires eyeglasses or contact lenses, schedule visits every 12 months.

Frequent eye exams are important because during the school years your child's eyeglasses prescription can change frequently.

Vision screenings versus eye exams

Keep in mind that a vision screening performed by your pediatrician or the school nurse is not a comprehensive eye exam. These screenings are designed to detect the possibility of a visual problem, but they do not take the place of a comprehensive eye exam performed at an eye doctor’s clinic.

The best way to make sure your child has the visual skills required to excel in and outside the classroom is to schedule routine comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor who specializes in children's vision.

Page updated April 2017

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