The other day the cutest little girl came in for her first eye exam. She was starting third grade and was an excellent student reading above grade level. Her parents were sure she didn’t need glasses but thought it was time for her to start having routine eye exams. She was articulate and outspoken and wanted to be done with her visit so she could get on with her day. She read the eye chart in her right eye all the way down to the tiniest letter and was eager to do the same on the left eye. To everyone’s surprise she struggled, barely getting down to the second to last line, guessing and growing frustrated as she realized something wasn’t right. She also had some trouble seeing in 3D which indicated that her two eyes were not working together. At the end of the exam I told her parents that although her right eye was perfect she was hyperopic, or farsighted in her left eye and the large discrepancy between the two eyes had created amblyopia (lazy eye) in that left eye. She left with a new pair of glasses and a follow-up appointment in three months.
80% of learning is visual – if your child does not see well he or she will not do well in school. Sometimes kids are unable to realize or articulate that something is wrong – either they will think that whatever they are experiencing is normal or they just won’t complain. Vision screenings at the pediatrician are not a substitute for a full and comprehensive eye exam. Eye exams are recommended at the age of six months (by specialized infantsee providers) and subsequently yearly after the age of three. Early use of iPads and other digital devices creates a new challenge for children’s developing visual systems and seeing well involves more than just seeing 20/20 on an eye chart. Evaluation of tracking, eye teaming and convergence are crucial to ensuring optimal ocular performance and subsequent academic success.
This little girl and her family were lucky that she was doing so well in school despite her amblyopia and suboptimal visual system. Don’t wait until your child complains or you get a note sent home from the school nurse or your child’s teacher – book your childs yearly exam now before the school year gets underway.