Signs your child may have a vision problem

Children are often unaware they are having problems with their vision, that’s why it is imperative for parents and teachers to look out for any signs of vision difficulties. Approximately 80 percent of what children learn in school is taught visually – that means if your child has an uncorrected vision problem, it could severely impact on his or her development.

Take a look at these warning signs to gauge if your child is having difficulty with their vision:

1. Continually complaining of headaches or tired eyes.
Particularly by the end of the day and after school.

2. Frequent eye rubbing while concentrating on reading, homework or while he or she is being active.
Sometimes, eye rubbing can be because they are tired. But if it seems this is occurring on a regular basis, it could be an indication of vision difficulties.

3. Difficulty keeping their place while reading or using their finger to guide their eyes over the words.
When children are learning to read, they’ll often use their finger to track which word they’re up to. Eventually children learn to focus and read without using their finger. If after a while your child still uses their finger, ask them to try reading aloud without pointing. If they have difficulty with this, he or she may have a vision problem.

4. Has trouble with or avoids close/ near-vision activities.
Examples include: colouring, drawing, playing board games, or doing homework.

5. Has trouble with or avoids far/ distance-vision activities.
Examples include: playing sport, reading the board at school, or identifying objects in the distance.

6. Regularly sitting too close to the TV or holding a book close to their face.
If your child is having trouble seeing televised images clearly or reading a book without leaning in too close, it could mean he or she is nearsighted.

7. Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing.
Light sensitivity can be a symptom of several eye conditions. Extreme sensitivity to light is known as photophobia. Children can sometimes develop headaches and nausea because of this.

8. Closing one eye to read, watch television or play on the computer.
This could indicate a refractive or binocular vision problem that interferes with the ability of the two eyes to function together comfortably. Closing one eye to read or concentrate could be a sign of a specific eye-teaming problem called convergence insufficiency.

9. Squinting/ blinking often or tilting the head to see the class board better.
This is something teachers should keep an eye out for. Until the child’s parent has been informed and an eye test has been scheduled, it is recommended the he or she sit closer to the board for easier viewing.

10. Avoiding or having difficulty using a computer or tablet, because it “hurts their eyes”.
If you child uses a computer or tablet regularly, monitor the length of time they are exposed to the screen. Have your child take breaks every 20 minutes. If their eye discomfort continues, take them for an eye test.

So you’ve discovered your child has one or several of these symptoms. What next?

It is recommended you book your child in for an eye examination as soon as possible. Sourcing an eye doctor who specializes in children’s vision and learning-related vision problems is key. Regardless if your child has vision difficulties or not, children should have an eye exam by no later than 6 months old, then again by age 3 years, and just before starting school. School-age children need an exam every two years after that if they have no visual problems. However, if your child requires eyeglasses or contact lenses, schedule visits every 12 months.

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