By Dr Nicholas Altuneg
How would you feel if the words moved while you were reading? How would you feel if your eyes felt sore after a short period of near work? How would you feel if you were accused of not trying, even though you were trying harder than the child sitting next to you in class? Would you be motivated to learn, or would you give up trying?
Did you know that 30% of children in every classroom have a binocular vision skills problem? Focusing, teaming, tracking skills. They have difficulty looking at the board, looking at the book, looking at the board, looking at the book. They get lost on the page, they get lost on the board and things go blurry. The words move around, they jumble, they go double or its just uncomfortable. Or they may skip lines or words. If you were that child, would you want to read? Or would you find something better to do with your time.
These are the challenges that some children face every day. And most suffer in silence.
Children often do not report that they are having problems because they don’t realize that the difficulties that they are having are not normal. If things look blurry, then they assume that they are blurry for everyone. If they get sore eyes or headaches when they read, then they assume this is normal for other people as well.
What is NAPLAN?
If you have children in Years 3, 5, 7, or 9, you are sure to have heard the word NAPLAN by now.
NAPLAN, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, is a battery of tests which will be administered to all Australian students from 15–27 March 2023. The results can be used to determine if students are performing either above, at or below the National Minimum Standard in the areas of reading, language conventions, writing and numeracy skills for their particular year level.
My child is worried about the tests, what can I do to help?
The Australian Assessment Curriculum and Reporting Authority tells parents that NAPLAN is designed to give students an opportunity to demonstrate skills they have learned over time through the school curriculum, and NAPLAN test days should be treated as just another routine event on the school calendar. Because the tests are looking at general literacy and numeracy skills, rather than being about the recall of information, the best thing that you can do to assist with the tests is to support their general learning.
How do I know if my child may need help?
Children may report blurry vision, eye strain, headaches, or difficulty changing focus from the book to board.
But most problems are investigated only after the observation of abnormal behaviour from parents or teachers.
Children may be seen to alter their reading posture, particularly by getting closer to the page. They may fatigue quickly after starting to read, squint, rub, or excessively blink with their eyes. They may lose their place when they read, mix up similar appearing words, reverse letters, numbers, or words, not remember words or struggle to sound them out.
A Behavioural Optometrist is specially trained to diagnose and treat vision disorders associated with learning. They can prescribe glasses, training lenses or vision therapy to relieve symptoms, improve visual efficiency and information processing skills. The right treatment could improve academic performance and reduce the risk of deterioration in visual skills in the future.
Along with visual skills your child also needs to have their auditory skills and motor co–ordination assessed.
An Audiologist can diagnose and treat hearing or balance problems with treatments such as hearing aids if they are required.
A Speech Pathologist can assess and treat difficulties with how sound is utilized, in other words they may be able to improve how auditory information is received and expressed.
An Occupational Therapist can assess visual, motor, and auditory processing skills and can train children to integrate these skills. The goal of treatment is to improve motor strength, flexibility, endurance, as well as speed and efficiency of information processing.
If your child is under performing relative to their ability or something doesn’t feel right about the way that they are learning, then get your child assessed by an experienced professional in their field, to give them the best opportunity to learn.
Don’t worry your child about NAPLAN
Some children will worry about NAPLAN while others won’t be concerned about it at all. If your child is not concerned, don’t create a problem that isn’t there by talking about the test constantly. On the contrary, if your child is worried, try to take the pressure off by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know that it is just another activity that they must do at school.
Focus on effort
Let your children know from an early age to try their best. Celebrate their efforts – not just their results.
If you suspect that your child will get nervous or anxious, start teaching them relaxation skills – taking deep breaths, relaxing their muscles, or thinking about something pleasant.
In the lead up to NAPLAN make sure that your child gets enough sleep and eats well. We all know that a tired and hungry child can lose their ‘cool’ over things that would usually be no drama at all.
So in answer to the original question “Do children who wear glasses score better on NAPLAN?” Having the right foundational skills is critical to learning success. Optimizing vision with glasses or vision therapy can unlock a big part of the learning puzzle because over 80% of the information we receive is visual information. Auditory and motor skills should not be ignored because when they are also optimized then this will maximize a child’s potential to learn.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general eye health topics. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care professional prior to incorporating this as part of your health regimen.
Dr Nicholas Altuneg is a Behavioural Optometrist who has been working on the Central Coast for almost 30 years. He is the co–founder at Eyes by Design, which is in the Kincumber Centre. Appointments can be made by phone 4369 8169 or online at www.eyesbydesign.com.au