Successful students see things clearly

First Published      Last Updated Sep 17 2014 09:06 am

Between shopping for school clothes and squeezing in one last trip to the beach, you might want to make time for a back-to-school eye exam. Bad eyesight can cause problems with reading, writing, and even playing, and children don't always notice changes in their own vision.

"Children come back after picking up their glasses and tell me they did not realize trees had separated, individual leaves," says Colleen Schubach, O.D., an optometrist at the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center. "Most often they are doing better in school and sports."

Vision changes quickly throughout childhood, and as a result it is important to have your child's eyes checked at least every two years. Schubach recommends yearly exams for children who already wear glasses or who have other eye issues.

Don't rely on a school vision screening—they often only test for distance visual acuity, missing common visual skills like hand-eye coordination and the ability to "track," or follow an object with both eyes together, she adds. A trip to a health care provider can offer more in-depth information.

The American Academy of Optometry recommends that you pay close attention if your child:

-Avoids reading or other near visual work.

-Shows a decrease in reading comprehension or efficiency.

-Reads in an unusual position such as with the head tilted to one side or holding a book close to the face.

Behaviors like hyperactivity and distractibility are often labeled as "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD), but undetected and untreated vision problems cause many of the same symptoms.

"Lots of times kids are smart in everything but school until they get their glasses," says Schubach. "They are able to focus better and not be a distraction."

Nearsightedness (close objects are seen clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred) is the most common vision problem. However, farsightedness (distant objects are usually seen clearly, but close ones do not come into proper focus) and astigmatism (blurry vision due to an irregularly shaped cornea) also occur in children.

If glasses become a part of your child's life, Schubach says there are a few tricks to encouraging children to wear them. Offering rewards and positive encouragement can help at the beginning if a child is a resistant to his or her new accessory. Making shopping for glasses fun can also help, she says.

"Let your child be included in selecting the style and color of the frames," says Schubach.

She noted big, oversized frames are the most popular with children right now who are preparing to head back-to-school.

Need to add an eye appointment to your back-to-school to-do list? Find out more by visiting: http://healthcare.utah.edu/moran/.

Esther Pomeroy is a communications specialist at the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center. She can be reached by e-mail at esther.pomeroy@hsc.utah.edu.