August is National Vision and Learning Month – is your child ready to get back to school? You probably have their school supplies and new clothes, but there’s one thing parents might forget…it’s time to have your child’s vision checked! This is applicable even if you know your son or daughter does not need glasses. It is possible, in fact, to have 20/20 vision, but still have a functional vision problem. This occurs in people of all ages, however it is estimated that 1 in 4 school-aged children have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to determine if your child may have a functional vision problem if you know where to look. Dr. Denise Smith offers vision care in Austin, and she’s provided a list of symptoms associated with learning-related and functional vision disorders. If you’re not near her Austin eye care location, a vision therapy center near you should be able to assist. They will check for:
Signs of Pain or Strain
Parents tend to notice these signs quickly, because children will complain of headaches, dry eyes, or motion sickness. They might also notice their child rubbing their eyes, blinking frequently, or seeming excessively tired after reading, writing, or spending time on the computer. Red or watery eyes are another physical symptom to watch out for however many children have functional vision problems and do not exhibit physical symptoms.
Children may try to hide their coping behaviors out of embarrassment, but parents generally pick up on them pretty easily. If your child is holding books or papers extremely close to their face, covering one eye when reading or writing, squinting, or holding their head at odd angles, they may be trying to compensate for an undiagnosed vision problem.
Kids have shorter attention spans than adults, so a certain degree of distraction is normal. However, if it is interfering with daily life or academic performance, it may be a sign of a real problem. Many children are diagnosed as ADD or ADHD, when in reality they may have functional vision problems that make it hard for them to move their eyes or process visual stimuli correctly. Have your child’s vision evaluated before turning to medication as the answer!
Everyone reads at different speeds, and like most things, reading speed typically improves with time and practice. However, if your child is especially slow when reading or taking more time than is age-appropriate, it could be a sign of a vision problem. He or she may have difficulty tracking, distinguishing between similar looking words, seeing letters correctly, or visually processing the words on the page. Some kids need to improve their reading skills but are unable to do so without some form of vision therapy.
This is another skill that improves with age and repetition, but handwriting struggles can be indicative of learning-related vision problems. Your child might be writing letters backwards, mixing up the letters in a word, or the words in a sentence, or having a hard time writing in a straight line. They also could be forming letters incorrectly, or showing odd spacing between letters and words. These can be red flags indicating difficulties with visual tracking, eye-hand coordination, visual memory, and form discrimination.
You can also reference this vision therapy symptom checklist to identify signs and symptoms associated with functional vision problems. If you’re seeking vision care in Austin – for your child or yourself – you can contact Dr. Smith at her Austin vision center. She is an Optometrist, the Founder, and Clinical Director of the Austin Vision Therapy Center. Be sure your child is ready to go back to school and perform their absolute best by checking for signs of functional vision problems, in honor of August being National Vision and Learning Month.