Children have very special needs when it comes to eyecare – it’s a key time in their life, and the American Optometric Association reports that as much as 80% of all learning is done visually. However, there are a few important things to understand about the care that can be offered to children.
The Skills Children Need
Every child needs to have these six visual skills in order to succeed, and proper eyecare is fundamental to ensuring that each skill is properly developed.
- Perception: This is the ability to organize shapes – especially lines and curves – into letters, words, and ultimately ideas. If a child doesn’t understand what they’re seeing, there’s a fundamental problem with their development that must be addressed immediately.
- Teaming: Humans have two eyes for a reason, and need to be able to use them together for many tasks. This includes reading text along a line (like you’re doing right now!), as well as measuring depth and distance between objects. Children who can’t do this may find that they suffer collisions more frequently and are unable to perform well in sports – a problem that often leads to being ostracized from their peers.
- Focusing: Most people are capable of rapidly adjusting the focus of their vision and easily viewing objects both close to them and far away. An inability to quickly focus could mean that it takes a child several seconds just to start reading information on a page after their teacher tells them to look at their book – the end result tends to be drastically slowed learning.
- Acuity: This is the skill most people think of when they’re thinking about eyecare. Acuity represents how sharply and accurately something can be seen, and in many cases is treated by the use of glasses.
- Tracking: This ability helps children move their eyes to look at the things they want to look at. A baseball player, for example, needs excellent tracking skills in order to follow a baseball and accurately hit it. The object in question doesn’t have to be moving, though – at the basic level, this skill is really about looking in one place, then at another.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: This is the last skill, and one of the most important – hand-eye coordination is what allows people to respond with their hands to the things they see, and the more accurate it is, the better children tend to do.
How EyeCare Can Help
Proper eyecare in children focuses on supporting these six skills and trying to correct problems as they arise. However, most eyecare – especially for acuity – does not emphasize providing a permanent solution. There’s a medical reason for this – children’s eyes and vision are constantly changing as they grow, and corrective procedures like laser eye surgery could have their effects quickly undone by the body’s continued development.
Different children have different desires when it comes to their vision – some are fine with wearing glasses, others want contact lenses, and some may require safety glasses in order to play sports – so it’s best to visit a good optical department after their appointment and figure out what will work best for them over the next few years. You may hear a lot of vision-specific concepts while you’re in the office, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the common terms of vision care before you go in – the more you know about any condition your child may have, the easier it is to make a good decision about how to treat it.
This is a guest post from my friend Amy Williams.
Amy enjoys writing on teen safety, effective parenting tips and strategies, anti-drunk driving and anti-bullying issues. She is also a huge advocate of teen safety on social media and will soon be hosting a series of webinars on the issue. Amy is also a proud member of MAAD and the National Bullying Prevention Center.