Pencils, notebooks, crayons, chalk. You’re filling your children’s backpacks with all the supplies they need to succeed. But have you left out the most important school tool?
According to All About Vision, more than 80 percent of what a child learns in school is presented visually, so following good vision practices for your kids can make a huge difference in their academic performance. Many of the problems children have with learning is based on problems with their eyesight. It is very difficult to learn what they have trouble seeing.
First and foremost, you need to pay attention to the signs that your child may have a vision impairment.
A national survey, reported by U.S. News & World Report, shows that more than 20 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 have trouble seeing the classroom chalkboard. And about 25 percent of children aged 6 to 11 have a vision impairment strong enough for them to wear prescription glasses.
But more than 66 percent of kids under the age of 6 have never had their eyes examined by an eye doctor, the survey found. And little kids don’t know how to tell you they’re having problems seeing; they just squint or sit right up in front of the TV.
These last two signs – along with frequent eye rubbing, tilting the head to see better, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, using a finger to follow along while reading, complaining of headaches or tired eyes, and closing one eye to read, watch TV, or see better – could indicate that your child has a vision problem.
If your child exhibits the above signs, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.
Vision Screening: How and When
But don’t wait until something goes wrong to see the eye doctor. And don’t rely on the school nurse or your pediatrician to monitor your child’s vision, as some pediatricians don’t perform vision screenings, and school screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem, not take the place of a visit to an expert eye care practitioner.
Even if your child exhibits no symptoms of visual problems, he or she should have an eye exam by the age of six months, then again at age three, according to the American Optometric Association. Having a complete eye exam before your child enters school allows for enough time to catch and correct any problems while the visual system is developing.
Some other healthy vision habits to instill in kids are getting them used to wearing sunglasses. They need sun protection just as much as adults do – maybe even more, since they (hopefully) spend more time playing outdoors in direct sunlight. Which leads to what may be the biggest kid problem of our modern age: getting them away from the TV, computer, and video games.
Yes, they may protest at first, but setting reasonable limits on indoor activities like these can not only help their physical development (and help prevent such pervasive modern diseases as childhood diabetes, which can lead to serious vision problems, even blindness), but also their vision.
If you are having problems getting your child to spend time away from the television of video games, consider going on walks with them. You can make the time outside in the sun more interesting by starting a flower or vegetable garden with them. Face it, your eyes could probably use a break as well as theirs. Along with the benefits of fresh air and sunshine you can also spend some quality time with your children.
Though heredity seems to play a significant role in the development of myopia in childhood, All About Vision notes that some research suggests eye strain, specifically computer eye strain, may also be involved. Working on a computer for a long period of time leads to near-point stress: to see clearly up close, the eye has to make an effort to focus.
Some researchers think that fatigue caused by excessive focusing can lead to changes within the eye that cause myopia. And experts agree that focusing on images on a computer screen causes greater eye fatigue than reading print in a book or magazine.
So have your child take frequent breaks when using a computer or digital device.
And when you finally do get them outside, remember to provide protective eyewear for sports activities.
Prevent Blindness America estimates that about 40,000 sports-related eye injuries each year in the U.S. are severe enough to require emergency room care – 90 percent of these injuries could easily be prevented by wearing protective eyewear.
Finally, we at Rebuild Your Vision believe strongly in “feeding your eyes”; it has been proven over and over that good nutrition leads to healthy vision. And what better way to set your child on the right visual path (as well as a path of allover health) than getting them used to a nutritious diet at an early age?
While you may have to come up with some creative ways to sneak fruits and veggies into their meals (see Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, for tips and recipes), when your child brings home a good report card, it’ll all be worth it. One simple step that you can take is to make sure that there are always vegetables and dip in the fridge. Children are more likely to eat them if they are prepared and easy to grab.
Keeping fresh or dried fruits in the house is another good option. It is much easier to instill good eating habits in children when they are young. However, even with an older child, you can change the way they eat by not stocking the high sugar snacks. Trail mix and granola are some other healthy options that your children can snack on.