Risk Factors

Potential Reasons your Child May Be at Higher Risk for Developing Vision & Learning Related Problems

  • Children of low birth weight (LBW) -not necessarily premature
  • Poor prenatal care and lifestyle (smoking, drinking etc. during pregnancy)
  • Family History of learning disabilities and/or visual problems
  • Poverty
  • Premature birth
  • Malnutrition
  • Complications during pregnancy (preeclampsia, systemic infections, medications, anesthetics at birth, obstetrical trauma, toxemia, hypoxia and many others)
  • Postnatal factors including infections, metabolic disorders, chronic disease, environmental hazards, and hazardous medical events, (seizures, abuse, head injury, etc.)

If your child has any of these factors in their background they may be at a greater risk for acquiring learning or vision dysfunctions.

Being aware of these increased risks means you can potentially recognize signs of any problems early and get the help they may need BEFORE it can really affect their performance in school and life.

The sooner any vision and/or learning problems are addressed, the greater your childs' chances are of achieving in school!

Facts about Risk Factors Related to Vision and Learning

Studies have shown children of poverty that were below average in height performed below average on sensory-motor and intersensory neurointegrative tests. Children from non-poverty backgrounds who were below average stature were unaffected.

Smoking during pregnancy, even in small amounts, is linked with LBW, premature birth, math and reading problems.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy also takes its toll on children; infant size is decreased, APGAR scores at birth are lowered and by the age of 4 children show developmental lags in balance and fine motor skills. By the age of 7, a seven point decrease in IQ scores is noted in children whose mothers drank socially during pregnancy.

IQ scores have been shown to decline with decreasing birth weight. LBW children have two times more borderline IQs as compared to full birth weight babies. These children also have an increased prevalence of strabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eyes).

The greatest impact to the visual systems of LBW babies appears as deficits in visual processing, perceptual development and neurointegrative disorders. Even small amounts of damage to a child's central nervous system, (CNS) can have severe effects on learning. Damages can be so small that they can often be extremely difficult to locate and diagnose. Effects from these damages may not be noticed right away and can manifest themselves later on down the road.

aWords of Wisdom about Vision and Learning Risk Factors

Though there are factors that can increase your chances of having visual problems, it does not mean that it definitively lead to these problems. It also means that learning related vision problems can also occur without the above risk factors.

A good analogy is watching children learning to swim. Some of them seem to be naturals and take to the water. They learn quickly and with ease and often without instruction. Other kids need a great deal of help, repetition and practice. Eventually, however, both types of children learn how to swim if given what they need.

It is not always obvious what originally causes vision problems, because it is most likely a combination of factors, but what is certain is that visual inefficiencies can be remediated. There are ways to detect and manage vision and learning problems so they will not be a great hinderance to your child's success.

If you are blaming yourself, don't!

Risk factors provide us with information that make educators, parents and doctors more sensitive to signs and symptoms of visual dysfunctions. It may mean being more aggressive in keeping up with routine vision exams.

Sometimes parents provide everything their child needs, but during particular periods of vision development the child just does not own or master the particular set of skills they could have developed at that time.

What you do now still affects the rest of their life. Good parenting, nutrition and a safe, learning environment is still essential to the well being of your child, as is the ability to recognize when it is time to seek intervention.

Don't waste time in finding appropriate help if you suspect or know your child has some of these risk factors. Remember that being aware and proactive is a very powerful way to help your child.

Your pediatric optometrist is an invaluable resource. Contact them with any questions or concerns you may have about your child's vision. If you don't have an eye doctor, you can find one by going to Finding a Doctor.

To learn about developmental milestones to know if your child is on the right track, click here.



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