A major research project found that in grade one, 30.7% of children failed one or more tests of vision abilities needed to do well in school. By third grade, 58.3% failed. By fifth grade, 71.4% were found to be deficient in some of their vision skills. Why do so many problems with vision become evident in the third grade? Is there a connection between school work and vision problems?
Third grade marks a turning point in the child’s educational process. The first two grades are all about learning to read. In third grade, reading has become a tool for learning. The print in books is smaller, and there is an increasing amount of reading demanded of the student. When a child’s vision skills are poor, school work becomes a demanding, stress-producing task.
Behavioral optometrists find that children react in several ways to deal with this stress:
1. They avoid the work, often substituting careful listening for visual work. These children often have 20/20 eyesight since they just don’t do any more visually-demanding work than is forced upon them.
2. They do the work, but suffer fatigue, eyestrain, headaches. Overcoming visual limits also divides attention and reduces the understanding of what’s read.
3. They adapt in some physical way in an attempt to cope with the visual work.
Adaptations —actually maladaptations—allow a child to compensate for his or her limited visual abilities. A nearsighted child, for example, has trouble seeing distant objects, but frequently “eats up” books at a voracious rate.
Nearsightedness and many other vision problems were not common just a century ago. Neither was universal education and work requiring intensive near vision! Yet today, about 36% of the population is nearsighted—dependent on lenses to see clearly in the distance. In Asia, over 95% of the population is nearsighted.
Behavioral optometrists find that relieving a child’s near visual stress to be one of the keys to preventing many vision problems. This can be done by building visual skills and by providing stress-relieving lenses that help reduce the effort required to do other near work. By the time a child complains about symptoms of visual maladaptations, it is difficult to implement a preventive program. This makes it critical for parents and teachers to watch children for signs of vision problems. Do they see double images? Do distant objects seem blurry?
Delaying visual care for a youngster who needs it can increase the risk that permanent vision problems will develop. Dr. Davis urges parents and teachers to watch for these early signs of developing vision problems:
1. Book held very close to child’s eyes
2. Avoiding all possible near vision work
3. Poor or twisted posture when reading
4. Covering one eye with arm or hand when reading
5. Headaches after reading or other near work
6. Skipping words or lines while reading
7. Frequent bumping into furniture or other objects
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child or students, please call Dr. Davis at the Vision Learning Center to schedule an appointment today!