As children settle into the new school year, there is a good chance many students will be missing the most important school supply of all--good vision! While we strongly recommend yearly eye exams for every child, here are 8 signs your child needs to see the eye doctor soon:
- Squinting: This is the most obvious symptom of blurred vision in a child. If you see your child squinting, it is a subconscious attempt by the brain to clear blurry vision. Not only will squinting not help, but doing it for extended periods of time will lead to headaches.
- Closing an eye while reading: If you notice your child closing an eye rather than using both eyes together while reading, this is also a sign of a problem. Either the brain is trying to eliminate a blurry image in one eye or it is compensating for a lack of alignment between the two eyes.
- Complaining of double vision: If your child says he or she is seeing two of something, it is very important to have them seen by an eye doctor very soon. Double vision could be the result of misalignment between the two eyes. This could lead to the development of a “lazy eye,” but rarely it could also be the sign of serious medical conditions affecting the nerves controlling the muscles attached to the eyes.
- Holding books too closely: If your child holds books or does homework closer than about elbow's distance, it may just be a bad habit. However, it can also be a sign of problems in the visual system and should be checked out.
- Sudden behavior disruption at school: Behavioral issues and ADHD are regularly controversial topics within the overall discussion of childhood learning. However, experience has taught many eye doctors that a certain number of children may either not know how to articulate their vision issues or may not want to for various reasons. In some instances, poor behavior or inattention may actually be the result of an inability to visually keep up in class.
- New onset of headaches: The number of things that can cause headaches is nearly endless. Headaches in a child could be due to medical conditions, emotional states, medications, allergies, etc. However, vision and/or eye problems can also be a frequent cause of headaches. If your child complains of headaches more than once a week, it may be worthwhile to have a check-up with the eye doctor and pediatrician.
- Having to re-read things with poor comprehension: If your child says that they do not like reading, it may be that they aren’t just being difficult. Children with visual or focusing problems often find that they have to read things over and over to comprehend what they are reading. This makes reading a tedious process instead of a joyful experience. Poor comprehension is often a sign that the brain is trying too hard to compensate for an underlying visual and/or focusing problem. This taxes the brain and uses up valuable mental resources that would otherwise be use to process and internalize what your child is reading.
- Complains about vision: When a child complains about not being able to see, it is important not to prejudge the complaint without having an objective exam by an eye doctor. The eye doctor will weigh the child’s complaints and the parent’s observations and concerns. The objective testing component of the eye exam does not rely on responses from the child and can uncover if a child truly needs glasses or if they only want glasses because a sibling or their best friend just got glasses.
While these “8 signs your child may need to see the eye doctor soon” are important, there’s many more signs and symptoms of vision issues. Even in the absence of any of these, it is still vitally important that every child have a complete vision and eye health examination by an eye doctor every year. Catching vision or eye problems early ensures that your child is well equipped to do their best in the upcoming school year.