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Children 6-18 Years

School-aged vision

It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes*. Reading, writing and using computers are among the visual tasks students perform daily. A child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. When his or her vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.

Help Them Learn and Grow

As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly. Increased class work and homework can place significant demands on a child's eyes. Unfortunately, the visual abilities of some students don't meet the task. When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically:

  • Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible
  • Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency
  • Experience discomfort, fatigue and a short attention span.

Some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviours of hyperactivity and distractibility. These children are often labelled as having "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD). However, undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD.

Because vision may change frequently during the school years, regular eye and vision care is important.

The most common vision problem is short-sightedness or myopia. However, some children have other forms of refractive error like long-sightedness and astigmatism. Eye focusing, eye tracking and eye coordination problems may also affect school and sports performance. Eyeglasses or contact lenses may provide correction for many vision problems and a program of vision therapy may be needed to help develop or enhance vision skills.

Vision skills for success

Vision is more than just the ability to see clearly, or having 20/20 eyesight. It is also the ability to understand and respond to what is seen. Basic visual skills include the ability to focus the eyes, use both eyes together as a team, and move them effectively. Other visual perceptual skills include:

  • Recognition the ability to tell the difference between letters like "b" and "d"
  • Comprehension to "picture" in our mind what is happening in a story we are reading
  • Retention to be able to remember and recall details of what we read.

Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:

  • Visual acuity to see clearly in the distance (chalkboard), intermediate distance (computer), and up close (reading)
  • Eye focusing to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change
  • Eye tracking to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page, or following a moving object like a ball
  • Eye teaming to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports
  • Eye-hand coordination to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball
  • Visual information processing the ability to organise images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand, interpret and remember what is seen.

If any of these visual skills are lacking or not functioning properly, a child will have to work harder. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems. Parents and teachers need to be alert for symptoms that may indicate a child has a vision problem.

*Source: American Optometric Association, School-aged Vision: 6 to 18 Years of Age. www.aoa.org