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The Eyes Have It!
By Kim Green-Spangler

June is Child Vision Awareness Month, the month dedicated to educating parents and care-givers in signs and symptoms to look for, routine exams, questions to ask, and how to find the appropriate vision-care provider. Did you know that there is a difference between eyesight and vision? Eyesight is defined as how sharp the image is seen, while vision is the ability to focus on and comprehend what is seen.

Children have vision milestones from birth to school-age. From the recognition of brightly colored objects, to eyes moving without having to move the head, pointing at objects, scribbling, drawing, and coloring within the lines. There are milestones which signify steadily progressive vision development which parents should take note of. For a detailed list visit Parents' Guide to Children's Visual Development.

It's never too early

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmologists recommend that all infants and children be routinely checked for vision wellness at each well-baby/child visit by their regular doctor. Children with a family history of childhood eye problems or signs of vision problems (such as red eyes or swelling) should be seen by a specialist, an ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately. An ophthalmologist is trained to perform eye surgery while an optometrist is trained in the developmental aspects of vision. An optometrist may use glasses, prisms, and therapy to minimize or correct vision problems. Eye exams should be performed by a specialist by the time your child is three years of age if there is a family history of childhood eye problems, especially genetic eye diseases, the eyes are cloudy, red or swollen, if there are signs that the eyes are misaligned, or if the child was born prematurely.

The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends that children five years of age or younger be screened for amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (misaligned eyes) or visual acuity. If no problems are detected, children should have their eyes checked every 18 - 24 months. If children are glasses wearers they should have their vision checked annually. If worsening vision is detected, exams should be more frequent.

Is it a Learning Problem or a Vision Problem?

Experts estimate that nearly 50% of children who experience learning difficulties have vision problems. Therefore school performance should be carefully monitored. If a child has frequent bouts of inattentiveness, has poor reading comprehension, complains of blurred vision, headaches, tired eyes, or skips words, reverses letters or numbers and becomes tired or sleepy after short periods he/she should be evaluated by a specialist.

If parents, teachers, or care-givers notice any of the signs of poor vision or suspect poor vision as the culprit of poor educational performance, a visit to a vision specialist should occur. As children are typically not aware of what or how they should be seeing things, parents should ask questions and carefully monitor a child's vision. Vision is the sense that supplies the foundation for language and social/emotional interactions. Any suspected problems should be immediately brought to the attention of a professional and a comprehensive test should be performed.

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