By Dr Nicholas Altuneg
Getting your child ready for their first day of school can feel like a big job. Uniform pressed, school bag packed, lunch box filled, and don’t forget their favourite toy or book – all in preparation for the adventure and discovery of learning and life at school.
But in all of this excitement and anticipation, many parents overlook one very important factor that indicates their child’s readiness for this next big milestone – their eyes and vision, which is integral to their ability to learn.
They may have had their immunisations and physical or dental check ups, but do you know how well your child will process information once they’re in a classroom?
Here’s how you can tell.
Are they ready for learning
Make sure your child is prepared for school by testing their vision and hearing development. This will allow you to discover any potential barriers that might hinder their learning.
If issues with their sight goes undetected it could impact their academic performance, or worse, their confidence in the classroom.
A child with learning related vision problems can usually learn better by using glasses for close work and/or Vision Therapy.
A school or preschool eye screening test could be too little too late
Many children receive a school or preschool eye screening test, but unfortunately these examinations often only detect the most obvious eye defects, such as how clearly a child can see letters from a distance This test doesn’t measure your child’s ability to see at near, reading or writing distance, the distance where most learning takes place.
Over 90% of vision problems are not detected by a school screening test.
Most typical Optometrists and Ophthalmologists also test for ‘refractive error’ but that too does little more than the Snellen test mentioned above. Vision is a complex process and seeing clearly, as measured by a letter chart, is only part of the process.
Where Behavioural Optometry differs
Optometrists trained in Behavioural Optometry will be able to tell you if your child has problems with:
- Eye teaming
- Eye tracking
- Depth perception
- Understanding what your child sees.
Behavioural Optometrists identify and remedy the vision problems that are subtle yet serious before they impact your child’s ability to learn.
The connection between vision and achievement
Research and clinical studies reveal there is a strong link between academic achievement and visual abilities.
Vision is essential to learning because this is your child’s dominant system for receiving information. Seeing is a mental process – it is about finding the position of objects in space and interpreting their shape, distance, and colour. It’s also about controlling the speed and direction of movement. Although these skills are thought to be inherited, they’re actually also learned, and they develop and change throughout life.
Our best learning occurs when we use both eyes effectively together. Education is easier when we combine visual information with data received through other senses, such as hearing, touch, and movement. So, for example, when our eyes don’t work as a team, it can have a significant impact on information processing and therefore learning.
To do all the things required at school – solve maths problems, play ball sports, read, and understand information – your child needs clear and confident vision.
Treatment options for learning related visual problems
There are many case studies documenting the success of Behavioural Optometric treatment for children with learning related visual problems.
Lenses and/or Vision Therapy teach people to process visual information more efficiently and help visual recall.
In the studies referred to, after treatment, the children improved their ability to use their eyes more effectively and integrate vision with other senses. As a result, they saw significant progress in school.
Adults with visually demanding jobs (such as athletes and pilots for example) can confirm the value of Vision Therapy to sharpen their perception skills to enhance their performance.
Vision Therapy programmes can be tailored to individual needs and problems, and they can be practiced at work and at home. Vision Therapy and lenses can open a whole new world of achievement and success.
How lenses make a significant impact
Glasses can be prescribed for many reasons, and correcting sight is just one reason. Correctly prescribed lenses are a powerful tool which can be prescribed for specific purposes such as reading, crafts, and computer use to improve function in these areas.
They also help with poor or slow focus, eye imbalance and other visual problems. Glasses relieve stress on the eyes, improving comfort and performance.
As a parent, you don’t know what you don’t know, but when it comes to your child’s vision it’s well worth finding out. An eye test by an experienced Optometrist will give you great insight into your child’s eye health and how prepared and ready they are for the wonderful learning journey they’re about to embark on.
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