Routine Vision Exams are Important

Hear Comedian, Brian Regan, on his account of going to see the Eye Doctor below:

According to the Better Vision Institute, only 14% of children have had a comprehensive vision exam by first grade! Yet, the American Optometric Association recommends that by first grade, all children should have had at least three vision wellness checkups, one at 6 months, one at 3 years and again before beginning school, to ensure that their vision is developing healthy and normal. Once they start school, everyone should get a vision exam each year.

Most people believe school vision screenings or pediatric wellness checks are thoroughly evaluating vision, because they believe that having 20/20 acuity, or seeing clearly in the distance, is the only component of vision.

In fact, you can have 20/20 visual acuity in both eyes and be significantly impacted by visual problems. Some problems can be sight or life threatening, such as amblyopia or disease processes,including tumors and retinal detachments, that may not affect visual acuity. Other problems could be functional and negatively affecting academic, work and sports performance, such as focusing, eye teaming or visual processing difficulties.

All Optometrists and Ophthalmologists are trained at checking how clearly a person sees, if they have a significant refractive error that may need glasses, as well as thoroughly assess the health of the eye both inside and out.

Behavioral/developmental optometrists will also assess visual skills to ensure that they are performing at a level needed to support maximum achievement.

Unfortunately, many good primary care optometrists and ophthalmologists do not test for functional vision problems. They do a fantastic job within the parameters of their practice. However, if you do not test these areas of function, you are definitely not going to identify a potential problem. At the very least, we encourage even primary care doctors, to screen for functional problems and refer them to the professionals that specialize in that area.

To learn about the differences between eyecare professionals, click here.


What Developmental Optometrists Evaluate in an Exam

In order to determine if a child has normal, health vision, their eye examination should include testing and/or observation of the following basic visual skills and eye assessments:

  • Eye Health
  • Visual Acuity at Distance and Near (includes looking for potential lazy eyes)
  • Eye Alignment (looking for potential eye turns)
  • Binocularity
  • Depth Perception
  • Eye Movements Skills (including tracking and fixating)
  • Eye Teaming Skills
  • Focusing Skills
  • Color vision testing
  • Visual Perception Skills
  • Gross Motor Development
  • Fine Motor Development

It is extremely important to realize that the many different parts of the visual system work together in order to be an efficient system. Think about the following analogy:

If one vital part or several parts are missing or malfunctioning, a car will not run properly, especially for long distances or when there is added stress to the engine (like on a hot day). Similar to a car, the visual system cannot function well with pieces missing or not working properly, especially when there is added stress to the system (like reading for content). Engine parts that are defective and not in peak condition will give the car a rough and inefficient ride. A poorly acting visual system cannot smoothly and efficiently take in, process, store or use information and can eventually break down.

If you would like to learn more about these skills, read about visual skills by clicking here.

If you suspect your child has a learning related vision problem, but the timing does not fall during the recommended times to see an eye doctor, have your child examined by a behavioral optometrist who works with children and/or specializes in vision therapy anyway. If it is, indeed, a vision problem, there is a huge benefit to identifying and remedying it sooner than later. For one, it means the vision problem has less time hindering learning in a classroom. For another, bad habits are hard to break the longer they are ingrained.

Remember, vision problems are not outgrown and can affect a person's achievement in all activities, such as school, work or sports, throughout life. Don't let this vision be a reason for your child to pass up opportunities.





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