WHAT DOES YOUR CHILD SEE AT SCHOOL? Does he/ she need an eye test.
Up to a quarter of the 90,000 or so children beginning primary school in Ireland this week are likely to have vision problems.
Which is serious because most of a child’s learning is visual — looking at boards, books, teachers and surroundings. If a child has undiscovered vision issues, they can’t engage properly with these.
Many parents down the decades are all too familiar with the note from the teacher about a child being a ‘daydreamer’. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with daydreaming, but it may suggest that the youngster simply isn’t seeing things clearly enough to concentrate on what’s going on in class.
By making sure a child can see well at school, you can help ensure they reach their potential. It is important to understand that the standard school screening usually carried out at the end of Junior Infants year is helpful but has pitfalls.
For instance, the school screening is generally done using a letter chart with capital letters, which most children at that stage are not familiar with nor comfortable using. And even when they can see and read the letters, it is common that a child may still need vision correction.
As optometrists we use a variety of test charts that allow us to assess the level of vision without the child needing to know letters or how to read. This kind of testing is also useful for very young children, and for individuals with special needs whether school age or adults.
Another other concern in relying on the school screening is that a referral through the public system for a suspected problem can take up to two years. A typical issue is a ‘lazy eye’ which is far too long. To have any chance of improving a lazy eye, it needs to be detected as early as possible, preferably pre-school and managed immediately. At Nichola Kennedy Optometrist, the team is particularly interested in all aspects of children’s and young people’s optometry, from paediatric through to teens and third level. We also specialise in helping patients with special needs.
Education experts are at one on the importance of the early years in setting learning habits. The quality of their vision as children move from the less structured space of playschool into ‘real’ school requires much more concentrated vision capability. Such as visual perception, being able to organise images on a printed page into letters, words, and ideas. Or the ability to refocus quickly between the blackboard at a distance and the paper on their desk. Being able to track movements, and developing more sophisticated hand-eye coordination for activities like drawing.
All these are skills essential to learning, dependent on vision and eye health. And shouldn’t be left to chance. Don’t depend on your child to tell you. A youngster, or even an older person who has never known anything other than the vision they have won’t necessarily know that there’s anything wrong with their sight. It’s just how it has always been. And far too often it isn’t until they have expert and thorough assessment that anyone realises it can be better.
In school terms this time of the year is a hectic one for everyone with young children. But do find time to consider whether they are seeing everything they should.
If you have concerns about your child vision, or if they have never had an eye test contact is on 045-484643 to discuss or book online