Children's Vision and Learning Month
Now recognized globally, in 2016, Florida was among the first states to proclaim August as Children's Vision and Learning Month. Then-Governor Rick Scott declared that every August be dedicated to promoting public awareness, recognition, and prevention of learning-related vision problems in school-age children. In preparation for another school year, parents and guardians are encouraged to have their children's eye health examined. Children are visual learners, and awareness can mean the difference between difficulty in the classroom and successful learning. This month, parents, teachers, and others are encouraged to learn and recognize the signs and symptoms of low vision in children. Early detection and treatment can prevent permanent vision problems affecting a child's learning ability.
According to the American Public Health Association, approximately 25% of elementary school children have visual issues that interfere with learning. Additionally, up to 85% of children with learning difficulties, such as reading and comprehension, have undiagnosed vision problems. The old-fashioned and outdated eye chart exam is better suited to recognize challenges related only to far-sightedness, not to detect near-sighted testing or eye movement issues. Undiagnosed visual matters often lead to lower grades and possible behavioral problems. As a result, a mental health misdiagnosis and treatment may occur, along with permanent undiagnosed visual issues.
Signs and symptoms of visual problems in school-age children include, but are not limited to:
- Sloppy handwriting
- Inadequate math and spelling skills
- Limited attention span
- Squinting and eye rubbing
All over the country, children return to the classroom each school year with undiagnosed and untreated visual issues. These children will have trouble with hand-eye coordination, tracking movement, focus, and perception. These children may also have headaches, be fidgety, or avoid reading. Visual changes can happen without noticing. Often, children adapt without realizing anything is wrong and therefore do not ask for help. Accordingly, August is the perfect time to establish your child's yearly comprehensive developmental eye examination.
Awareness of, and protection from, eye injuries is also critical. Unfortunately, many accidents and sports-related eye injuries happen to school-age children daily. Most of the time, children can overcome injuries, but sometimes the injury causes permanent damage. If possible, children involved in sports should use protective eyewear to help avoid injuries. Your ophthalmologist, or other eyecare professional, can prescribe polycarbonate lenses that are twenty times stronger than regular eyeglasses.
Early diagnosis and prevention should occur before children reach school age. First, a comprehensive eye examination should be carried out by an Ophthalmologist. These exams will serve as a base for the later yearly exams. Among many tests that the doctors perform, each eye is examined physically, screened for near- or farsightedness, and proper focus and movement. Should an issue be found, treatment may include vision therapy, a series of specially designed exercises that teach the eyes and brain to work together. In addition, eye care professionals may prescribe light treatment that calms the eyes for better training.
Children's Vision and Learning month serve many purposes across our communities, from awareness to action. Every August, let it best serve as a reminder that school-age children need yearly developmental vision exams to prevent and treat learning-related visual issues. Doing so every August, before school begins, will help create a solid foundation of learning for the year ahead.