Being a child in this day and age is no walk in the park. With vision problems like astigmatism on the rise, so is another disorder that may affect your child’s eyesight: ADHD. According to the CDC, in 2011, 11 percent of American children were diagnosed with ADHD which averages out to about 6.4 million children.
That number may not seem so terrible, but when compared to the 2003 findings, where only 7.8 percent of children had been diagnosed, you can see that it affects more and more children every year. In fact, there has been a steady rise in the children affected by the disorder since the first national poll taken in 1997.
It is unknown whether this is reflective of an actual rise in the disorder or a rise in the awareness of it. What is known is that ADHD is a condition that can greatly affect a child’s development if not treated correctly.
In light of this new study reported by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s news website, there may be a link between ADHD and vision impairments which are not correctable with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
What Is ADHD?
First off, it is important to clarify what ADHD is exactly. There are so many learning disabilities these days – dyslexia, ADD, autism, dyscalculia, and the list goes on and on. It can sometimes be stressful to try and differentiate between all of them.
ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is similar to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but with the added effect of hyperactivity. ADHD is the most common disorder diagnosed in children. It can affect children and teens and can sometimes even follow them into adulthood.
ADHD is more common is boys than it is in girls. According to the CDC data, about 13.2 percent of boys have ADHD, while 5.6 percent of girls do. Often, the disorder is discovered in the early years of a child’s schooling, when it becomes apparent that they are having difficulty paying attention.
Signs and Symptoms: What to Look For
Sometimes signs and symptoms of ADHD can be misconstrued as kids just being kids. However, when these symptoms last for more than six months and your child doesn’t seem to be growing out of it, then it is time to seek a diagnosis from a healthcare professional.
Here is a list of inattention signs that could be related to ADHD:
- Easily distracted
- Doesn’t appear to listen/follow instructions
- Doesn’t complete tasks
- Makes careless mistakes
- Often loses things
- Has difficulty organizing daily tasks
Here is a list of hyperactivity symptoms that may be related to ADHD:
- Squirms, bounces, has trouble sitting still
- Is restless (constantly jumping, running, climbing)
- Talks excessively
Children with ADHD can also be very impulsive. They’ll often interrupt others or blurt out answers in class. Impatience and difficulty waiting his or her turn is also an indication of impulsivity in a child suffering from ADHD.
If your child exhibits any of these symptoms for more than six months, speak to your family doctor immediately.
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ADHD and Vision Impairment
Ok, ok, we’re getting to the vision stuff now. In addition to ADHD and all the symptoms that come with it, the study from The University of Alabama at Birmingham has found a new link between ADHD and vision impairments in children.
With a sample of 75,000 children aged four to 7 with ADHD, this was a huge survey. The survey found that 15.6 percent of children with a vision impairment uncorrectable with glasses or contacts also had an ADHD diagnosis. On the other side of it, 8.3 percent of children with normal vision had an ADHD diagnosis.
According to the study, the vision impairments included lazy eye (amblyopia), color vision deficiency (color blindness), among other vision impairments.
Though the connection between these types of vision impairments and ADHD is not 100 percent known, it is clear that if a child has ADHD, parents should be wary of their vision health and vice versa.
This study does not conclude that one condition causes the other. Instead, it brings to light the fact that children’s vision health needs to be addressed to avoid having one more thing to distract children.
Vision is crucial when it comes to learning. Many children with existing vision conditions are often misdiagnosed with having a learning disorder. But when a learning disorder is present combined with a vision impairment, learning with twice as difficult.
So, parents, if you’re worried now that your color blind child may have ADHD, don’t worry. Like I said, vision impairments and ADHD are not synonymous. Be aware that when ADHD is present, so may a vision condition; and if a vision condition is present, so may ADHD.
This study is a reminder to have your child’s vision checked every year or more often if they have an existing condition. Children’s eyes are incredibly frail, but malleable. If a condition like lazy eye is caught early, chances are you can successfully treat it.
The same goes for ADHD. The earlier this disorder is caught, the easier it will be to treat it and to teach your child how to cope with their disorder. It will also give you the chance as a parent to give them the proper support and help, whether that’s helping them with homework or helping them make social connections.
Vision impairments in children can be detrimental if not taken care of early. As it stands now, many states offer vision screenings in schools, but a vision screening won’t find more serious problems like color blindness or amblyopia.
If you think your child may be suffering from ADHD and a vision impairment, it is incredibly important to treat both problems. Otherwise your child’s quality of life will diminish and it’ll make school, sports, making friends, and so many other things we do as children very difficult to achieve.
Take the time this month to get your children’s eyes checked by your eye doctor. You might as well make an appointment for yourself while you’re there!