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Fun Home-Based Activities to Strengthen Your Child’s Vision

crayons coloringAlthough 20/20 clarity is important, it’s not enough. You see, the visual system is made up of the eyes and the brain — and it’s how these two parts work together that makes all the difference. When your eyes and brain don’t communicate with each other properly, you may experience decreased reading comprehension, disorientation, lack of focus, and decreased cognitive abilities.

Strong visual skills are essential for learning and performing well in school and in sports. These include:

  • Fixation: The ability to fixate or hold your gaze on a target for an extended period.
  • Pursuit: The ability to follow a moving target as you would follow a tennis ball.
  • Saccade: The ability to rapidly shift focus between targets, such as moving from word to word while reading.
  • Accommodation: The ability to shift focus between distant to near objects (and vice versa), such as looking at the board and then writing notes in your notebook.
  • Binocularity: Using both eyes simultaneously.

If any of the above vision skills are deficient, your child may have difficulty paying attention, experience fatigue, exhibit behavioral problems, rub their eyes while reading, or use their finger to follow each word in a text. Furthermore, your child may appear to be performing well below their potential, and their writing may be messy despite having good fine motor skills. If your child has been diagnosed with reduced visual skills, why not continue to develop these skills at home? There are several activities that parents and caretakers can do during this time to help kids improve their vision.

At-Home Vision Exercises

Below are some ways you can help kids develop healthy vision from the comfort of their home.

Reading, Mazes, Puzzles and Writing — tracking

Visual tracking is made up of two skills: moving your eyes between targets (also called “saccades”), and following moving targets (called “pursuits”). We all make use of these basic skills every time we read, write, draw, drive, or do sports. Problems with tracking are manifested when we frequently lose our place while reading, or skim over words without processing them. Increasing the amount of time your child assembles puzzles, draws, and reads will improve their visual tracking.

Focusing on Static Targets — focus and depth perception

Focusing problems refer to the inability to sustain focus on a single point, or to easily switch between two targets (near and far, for example). One exercise is to hold a crayon or pen in front of your child and have them focus on it. Slowly move the pen closer to their eyes, and then away again. This develops focus and depth perception.

Alphabet Ball — fixation, binocularity, pursuits

With a permanent marker, draw letters, animals or colors on a ball or balloon. As you roll or toss the ball/balloon, ask your child to call out the last thing they noticed before catching it.

Near-Far Tasks — accommodation

Children are often required to alternate between near and far objects, such as when looking at their notebook and then at the blackboard, and back again. Have your child sit at a table and draw the shapes you have sketched on a piece of paper and hung on a nearby wall. The motion of looking from a near point to far point will help improve accommodation skills.

Pencil Movement — fixation

Ask your child to find a colored crayon they plan to use for drawing. But before they begin drawing, slowly move it in figure 8’s — horizontal, vertical, and circular motions in front of them — while having them follow it with their eyes. Doing this 5 minutes a day is an excellent way to improve fixation.

From all of us at The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre, we wish you and your family a safe and healthy few months ahead.

The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre serves patients from Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, and throughout Alberta.

Building Your Child’s Confidence Through Vision Therapy

girl in blue t shirt reading book 3755619We all know that success tends to be accompanied by confidence. However, because children with visual dysfunctions struggle to perform daily tasks, whether academic or otherwise, their confidence is adversely affected. For example, a 7-year-old child struggling to read will likely refuse to read aloud in the classroom in order to hide his or her challenge. This problem may result in poor grades and the inability to keep up with the class. Over time, this could cause the child to become frustrated and have a negative self-image, leading the child to see him or herself as a “failure”.

It’s quite common for reading struggles and other school-related endeavors to be attributed to a learning disability, when in fact, the child may have undetected poor visual skills. Basic vision screenings do not assess visual skills and won’t catch functional vision problems, such as poor eye teaming, poor focus, or how the eyes move while reading. Only a functional eye exam can determine whether a child is struggling with visual difficulties and assess whether vision therapy can help develop and improve these skills. It’s important to note that even a child with 20/20 vision can have a visual dysfunction that interferes with learning.

Vision therapy helps thousands of children a year. The vision therapy program offered at The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre can help your child by retraining the brain and eyes to work in unison — offering them their best chance at success.

What Is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy (VT) is a progressive treatment program made up of a variety of eye exercises, personalized to fit the needs of each child. The goal of vision therapy is to develop or enhance fundamental visual skills and abilities while increasing visual comfort and processing. Each treatment session takes place at the office once or twice a week under the supervision of Dr. Brennan Nelson.

To further support in-office treatment and accelerate progress, certain visual exercises are expected to be performed at home on a regular basis.

VT has been proven to improve the following eye conditions:

  • Ambylopia (lazy eye)
  • Strabismus (eye turn)
  • Binocular vision problems
  • Focusing/accommodative disorders
  • Visual-Perceptual difficulties
  • Eye movement problems
  • Visual disorders resulting from brain injury

As part of the therapeutic process, vision therapists turn to various tools, such as specialized lenses, prisms, patches, filters, balance boards, and digital simulations.

Building confidence through vision therapy from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

Improved Vision Can Impact Confidence Levels

At the risk of sounding cliche, vision therapy can change lives — especially in children whose vision problems are at the root of academic or other vision-related struggles. Children who once experienced difficulty reading or playing certain sports due to vision problems will now have the skills needed to excel in those areas, leading to improved self-confidence and a feeling of competence.

When simple tasks become obstacles, children may become frustrated, or even angry. For this reason, VT also assists with behavioral issues. Once these daily tasks become easier to perform, episodes of frustration diminish in frequency.

Improving a child’s visual skills with VT allows them to become better learners, and helps them achieve their academic goals. In fact, VT can be a key component in preparing a child for higher education, as increased success can develop a greater belief in one’s abilities. This newfound confidence will inevitably trickle into other areas positively impacting the quality of life and achievements.

With vision therapy, schoolwork, sports, and other daily activities that were once challenging become easier.

The trained visual skills developed through vision therapy empowers the child and shows them that they, too, can succeed. Don’t let poor visual skills hinder your child or yourself from accomplishing goals. Speak with Dr. Brennan Nelson to discover how vision therapy can unlock your or your child’s hidden potential. Call The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre today.

The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centreprovides vision therapy and other services to patients from Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, and throughout Alberta.

Is School Work Causing Computer Vision Syndrome in Your Child?

Eye health tips for students from our North Edmonton eye doctor

The start of fall means back-to-school for kids of all ages – and our team at Village Eye Centre wishes everyone a smooth and successful return to the classroom!

When your child enters school after a summer of outdoor fun, many of the summer’s vision hazards are left behind. Yet, that doesn’t mean all eye health risks are eliminated! Nowadays, the majority of learning is computer based – exposing students’ eyes to the pain and dangers of blue light and computer vision syndrome. Fortunately, a variety of helpful devices and smartphone apps are available to block blue light and keep your child’s vision safe and comfortable.

To help you safeguard your child’s vision for the upcoming semesters and the long term of life, our North Edmonton optometrist explains all about computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the signs of computer vision syndrome. If your child complains about any of these common symptoms, you can help prevent any lasting vision damage by booking an eye exam with our North Edmonton eye doctor near you:

  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes, due to reduced blinking
  • Headaches

Basics of blue light

Students spend endless hours in front of digital screens, be it a computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone. There is homework to be done, research to be conducted, texting with friends, and movies and gaming during downtime. All of this screen time exposes your child’s eyes to blue light.

Many research studies have demonstrated that flickering blue light – the shortest, highest-energy wavelength of visible light – can lead to tired eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. Additionally, blue light can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, causing sleep deprivation and all the physical and mental health problems associated with it. As for your child’s future eye health, blue light may also be linked to the later development of macular degeneration and retinal damage.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Our North Edmonton eye doctor shares the following ways to block blue light and protect against computer vision syndrome:

  • Computer glasses, eyeglasses lenses treated with a blue-light blocking coating, and contact lenses with built-in blue light protection are all effective ways to optimize visual comfort when working in front of a screen. These optics reduce eye strain and prevent hazardous blue-light radiation from entering the eyes.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule; pause every 20 minutes to gaze at an object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple behavior gives eyes a chance to rest from the intensity of the computer or smartphone screen, preventing eye fatigue.
  • Prescription glasses can be helpful when using a computer for long periods – even for students who don’t generally need prescription eyewear. A weak prescription can take the stress off of your child’s eyes, decreasing fatigue and increasing their ability to concentrate. Our North Edmonton optometrist will perform a personalized eye exam to determine the most suitable prescription.
  • Moisturize vision with eye drops. One of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome is dry eyes, namely because people forget to blink frequently enough. Equip your child with a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears eye drops (available over the counter) and remind them to blink!
  • Blue light filters can be installed on a computer, smartphone, and all digital screens to minimize exposure to blue. A range of helpful free apps are also available for download.
  • Limit screen time for your child each day, or encourage breaks at least once an hour. Typically, the degree of discomfort from computer vision syndrome is in direct proportion with the amount of time your child spends viewing digital screens.
  • Set the proper screen distance. Younger children (elementary school) should view their computer at a half-arm’s length away from their eyes, just below eye level. Kids in middle school and high school should sit about 20 – 28 inches from the screen, with the top of the screen at eye level.

For additional info, book a consultation and eye exam at Village Eye Centre

When you and your child meet with our North Edmonton eye doctor, we’ll ask questions about your child’s school and study habits to provide customized recommendations on the most effective ways to stay safe from computer vision syndrome and blue light. Our optometrist stays up-to-date with the latest optic technologies and methods to prevent painful vision and eye health damage from using a computer, so you can depend on us for contemporary, progressive treatment.

Help! My Child Doesn’t Want to Wear Glasses!

Do your kids need glasses in order to see clearly? Maybe they have a strong case of nearsightedness, perhaps they have astigmatism, or another type of refractive error. Whatever the cause, getting your kids to wear eyeglasses can be a parenting challenge.

Dr. James Evans treats patients from all over North Edmonton, Alberta with their vision correction needs. The knowledgeable, caring staff at Village Eye Centre can help you and your kids if they’re struggling with their glasses or don’t want to wear them.

Why Won’t My Child Wear His or Her Glasses?

To help your children get the best vision possible, you first need to understand why they’re fighting with you over their glasses. It usually stems from something physical, emotional, or social, such as:

  • Wrong fit
  • Wrong prescription
  • Personal style
  • Reactions from friends

How do you know which it is? Pay close attention to the signs, from what your kids say, to how they behave, to how they interact with others.

Physical

Improper fit is a big reason why glasses could feel uncomfortable. If they slip down, itch behind the ears, or put pressure on the bridge of the nose, it can explain why a child wouldn’t like to wear them.

If there’s been a big change to their prescription, they may need time to get used to it. If they were given the wrong prescription, they may be straining their eyes, getting headaches, or having eye fatigue. An incorrect prescription can make wearing glasses painful or awkward. It doesn’t correct their vision, either, so they’ll still see blurry images. When this happens, your eye doctor can check the prescription and make an adjustment.

Emotional

Your kids at home aren’t the same as your kids in school, on the sports field, or with their friends. They may be afraid of being made fun of in school, or they may not want the sudden attention on their appearance. These feelings can be even stronger among the tween and teen set.

Social

Even young kids can feel different when they put on a pair of glasses, especially if it’s for the first time. Feeling different or weird, in their eyes, translates to a negative experience. When wearing glasses makes them feel like the odd man out, they may not want to wear them. The last thing your child wants is to feel like a social outcast. After all, everyone wants to belong.

How We Can Help

First, bring your child in to the eye doctor for an eye exam. Our optometrist, Dr. James Evans, will check to make sure that your child has the right prescription and that any vision problems are being corrected. Next, we’ll take a look at the glasses and place them on your child’s face to determine if they’ve got the proper fit. Our optician will take care of any adjustments that need to be made.

The Vision They Need, The Style They Want

Fashion isn’t only for adults. Your budding fashionista or trendy young stud wants to look awesome, so don’t forget about style. When your kids look great, they’ll feel great! Give them the top-quality eyewear they need without compromising on style. Your kids are a lot more likely to wear glasses when they like the way they look.

What You Can Do to Help

Encourage, stay positive, and don’t give up. Avoid telling them what you want them to wear. Let them choose for themselves. In the end, they’re the ones wearing the glasses. Making decisions is an important life skill, something they’ll need as they grow up and become more independent.

For younger children, use positive words to encourage them. Talk about how glasses are like magic, letting them see beautiful things around them. Show them how a pretty flower or a bright red truck looks with the glasses on, and how different it looks with the glasses off. For older kids, throw in a little pop culture. Tell them how trendy they’ll look by showing them pictures of celebrities who also wear glasses. You’ll also rack up some cool parent points.

At Village Eye Centre, we have the experience and unique approach to children’s eyewear that will make your kids want to wear their glasses. Schedule an eye exam today – you can book an appointment online right here. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.

Is My Child Too Young for Vision Therapy?

Preschool Children Vision TherapyThe first years of a child’s life are crucial in ensuring the healthy and normal development of various body parts, especially the visual system. As a child’s body grows, so do the eyes. This can cause changes in vision. Keeping a close eye on, well, your child’s eyes, can help ensure that they are developing in a healthy way.

It’s important for parents and teachers to be on the lookout for problems with visual processing, as they can interfere with a child’s academics, social life, and extracurricular endeavors. This is especially evident during the school years when reading, writing, homework, and after-school activities become a part of their normal daily routine.

Even if a child has no refractive errors (such as nearsightedness or farsightedness) and has 20/20 vision, he or she may still have difficulties with visual processing or focus. These types of visual complications are often more difficult to detect, but may still impact various aspects of a child’s development.

When a child’s visual difficulties hinder their learning or social interactions, it may be time to try vision therapy.

What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is a personalized regimen of exercises that can improve and strengthen visual functions. Each patient has unique needs and different degrees of visual health, which is why Dr. Brennan Nelson and the team at The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre create a customized vision therapy program to get the best results for your child.

Vision therapy is compared to physical therapy, only for the eyes instead of the entire body. The techniques and exercises can teach the eyes to improve specific areas of vision, such as focus, eye teaming, hand-eye coordination, and visual tracking, among other skills. The doctor may include prisms or special eyeglasses to boost the therapy program.

Most children’s vision therapy takes place in our office and usually once a week. You’ll be instructed to continue some of the exercises at home for 15-20 minutes daily, which will support the in-office treatment.

At What Age Can Children Begin Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is offered to children as young as 6 years of age. Kids can develop problems with visual perception and clarity that aren’t always detected with a standard vision exam or school screening. Of course, every child is different, and the best way to know if they’re ready for vision therapy is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brennan Nelson.

Does Vision Therapy Really Work?

Vision therapy has been proven to improve visual skills and functions in both children and adults. It is an approved treatment by recognized organizations in the medical community, such as the American Optometric Association and the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

Keep in mind that it can take several months to notice significant improvement. Consistency is key. Young children, especially in the toddler years, need a steady routine to achieve the best possible results.

It’s important to note that vision therapy does not fix your child’s learning abilities or correct any refractive errors. The goal is to improve their visual function so that their skills in reading, writing, schoolwork, and social activities are strengthened for a better quality of life.

Contact Dr. Brennan Nelson and the knowledgeable staff at The Vision Therapy Centre At Village Eye Centre to schedule a consultation and see whether vision therapy is right for your child.

Dr. Brennan Nelson serves patients in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, and Fort Saskatchewan, and throughout Alberta.

 

Is Your Child Struggling With Reading?
We Can Help!

For your child to succeed in school, reading and writing skills are necessary. Proper vision development and visual processing skills are critical. It is aFather (wearing eyeglasses) and Daughter, reading a book well-established fact that poor vision can affect learning in a number of ways. Vision issues will make it hard for your child to focus on school work; poor vision can mean poor hand-eye coordination; reading comprehension and vision go hand in hand; and poor vision can affect your child’s confidence.

Is your child struggling with reading? If so, it can be due to a vision problem. It’s important for you to address this to help your child and set him/her on the path to succeed at school and in life.

What Does The Screening Result Say?

It is believed that at least 1 in every 10 school children has vision problems that can undermine their academic performance. In most schools, the solution to assess vision is to provide vision screenings. However, these screenings often miss critical visual skills that cause parents and teachers to overlook the underlying cause of the problem.

The traditional “20/20” vision screening administered to children at school and pediatrician’s offices only assesses how well your child sees at a distance. More than 50% of the serious vision problems that affect children are not diagnosed by a standard vision screening. Even if your child has 20/20 vision, he/she may still have difficulty reading due to other visual issues that are not detected through a vision screening.

Reading Requires Several Visual Skills

Reading is a complex task that requires 7 of the 17 vital visual skills. Here is a highlight of what we do when we are reading:

  • When we aim two eyes at the same point simultaneously and accurately, we use: Skill #1 Eye Movement Control, Skill #8 Simultaneous Alignment at Near and Skill #9 Sustaining Alignment at Near.
  • When we focus both eyes to make the reading material clear, we use: Skill #4 Simultaneous Focus at Near and Skill #10 Central Vision (Visual Acuity).
  • When we continue to sustain clear focus, we use: Skill #5 Sustaining Focus at Near.
  • When we move two eyes continually as a coordinated team across the line of print, we use: Skill #1 Eye Movement Control, Skill #9 Sustaining Alignment at Near and Skill #15 Fine Visual-Motor.

As you can see, even if a vision screening shows that your child has 20/20 vision, there are so many other reasons he or she may have difficulty reading. Any problem that interferes with any of the vision skills mentioned above can make it difficult for your child to read.

Have Your Child's Vision Evaluated, Today!

Vision-related learning problems can cause your child tremendous difficulty at school. This will in turn affect the child’s ability to develop important Little girl having eye examfoundational skills. The earlier a visual processing issue is detected, the easier it is to treat and the sooner your child will have the skills needed to continue on a path of success.

Schedule a developmental eye exam for your child today at Village Eye Centre. Our developmental eye exam remains the most viable way to detect any problem that can affect reading and ensure that your child’s vision will enable him or her to succeed.

Our qualified and experienced optometrists are available to speak with you and discuss your options. We use state-of-the-art equipment and assessments to examine your child’s vision and eyes and if an issue is detected, we will recommend the best possible treatment available. We serve patients all over Edmonton.

Don’t delay in getting your child the help they need! Schedule your developmental eye exam today!

 

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

Progressive Myopia: When Your Child’s Vision Keeps Getting Worse

What Is Progressive Myopia?

Nearsightedness or myopia is one of the most prevalent eye disorders worldwide and its incidence is increasing. In fact by 2050, myopia is projected to affect half of the world’s population!

Many children diagnosed with nearsightedness (myopia) experience a consistent worsening of their vision as they grow into adolescence. This condition can be so aggressive that for some, each time they take their child to the eye doctor for a vision checkup, their prescription gets higher.

This is called progressive myopia and can be a serious condition for many children now and in the future. Not only is there a financial burden and inconvenience associated with having to replace eyeglasses on a regular basis, but high myopia is a risk factor for many eye diseases later in life such as retinal detachment, early onset cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

What Causes Progressive Myopia?

Myopia is a refractive error that happens when the eye focuses incoming light in front of the retina, rather than directly on it, resulting in blurred distance vision. While an exact cause of progressive myopia is not known, most research indicates that a combination of environmental and genetic factors trigger the condition.

First of all, there is evidence that a family history of nearsightedness is a contributing factor. Additionally, spending a lot of time indoors may play a role in myopia development, as studies show that children who spend more time outside have less incidence of myopia. Lastly, near point stress, which can be caused from looking at a near object for an extended period of time, can prompt the eye to grow longer and result in myopia. Several eye doctors recommend following the 20-20-20 rule when using digital devices (stopping every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds) to reduce near point stress caused by computer use.

What Can Be Done To Prevent or Treat Myopia?

There are several treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of myopia.

Orthokeratology (ortho-k):

Also known as corneal reshaping, this treatment uses rigid gas permeable contact lenses that are worn while the patient sleeps to reshape the cornea, which is the clear, front part of the eye. During the day, the patient is usually able to see clearly, glasses-free. In addition to allowing glasses-free vision during the day, this treatment has been shown to reduce the progression of myopia in many children.

Distance Center Multifocal Contact Lenses:

This treatment uses distance center (which means the area for seeing at a distance is in the center of the lens) multifocal soft contact lenses to provide clear vision and slow the progression of myopia. The lenses are worn as normal contact lenses during the day.

Atropine Drops:

Atropine drops are a daily-use prescription eye drop that has been shown to reduce myopia progression. It can be used alone or in combination with ortho-k or multifocal contact lenses.

Additional Myopia Treatments:

While these treatments are available in all of North America, some countries offer additional options that are approved for myopia control. For example, in Canada, ZeissTM MyoVision glasses that have an innovative lens curvature design are available to help reduce the rate of myopia progression. Additionally some doctors in Canada offer Coopervision MiSight® lenses, which are 1-day contact lenses that are worn during the daytime. These contacts have a multifocal lens design with distance centre and near surround that is specifically designed for children.

Myopia & Your Child

If your child’s vision keeps getting worse, it’s more than an annoyance – it can be a serious risk factor for their eye health and vision in the future. The best strategy for myopia control depends on the child and the severity of the case, and requires consultation with an experienced eye doctor in order to determine the best solution. If your child wears glasses, make his or her vision a priority; schedule an eye exam to ensure stable vision and healthy eyes.

 

Signs That Your Child Has a Vision Problem

Healthy eyes and good vision are essential for your child’s growth and development. In fact, learning is 80% visual, which means a child’s success in school, athletics and many other aspects of life can be impacted by poor vision. Good vision goes beyond how far you can see, and also includes a number of other skills such as visual processing and eye movement abilities.

Often times vision deficiencies are at the root of learning problems and behavioral issues and may unfortunately go unchecked and misdiagnosed. Remember, if your child is having trouble in school, an eye exam and a pair of prescription glasses is a much easier solution than treating a learning disorder or ADHD; yet many people fail to check that first.

It is common for children to think that their vision deficiency is normal and therefore they often won’t report it to parents or teachers. That is why it is even more important to know what to look for. Here are some signs that your child may have a vision problem:

Vision Signs

  • Squinting or blinking often
  • Eye rubbing
  • Tilting the head to the side
  • Covering one eye
  • One eye that turns out or in
  • Reporting double vision
  • Holding books or reading materials very close to the face

 

Behavioral Signs

  • Complaining of headaches or eye fatigue
  • Short attention span
  • Difficulty reading
  • Losing their place frequently when reading
  • Avoiding reading or any activity that requires close work
  • Problems with reading comprehension or recall
  • Behavioral issues that stem from frustration and/or boredom
  • Poor performance and achievement in school or athletics
  • Working twice as hard to achieve minimal performance in school

Another issue is that many parents and teachers think that a school vision screening is sufficient to assess a child’s vision, so if that test comes back okay, they believe there is no vision problem. This however, is far from the case. A school vision test usually only assesses visual acuity for distance vision or how far a child can see. Even a child with 20/20 vision can have significant vision problems that prevent them from seeing, reading and processing visual information.

Every child of school age should have comprehensive eye and vision exams on a regular, yearly basis to assess their eye and vision health, and ensure that any issues are addressed as soon as possible. It’s also important to have an exam prior to entering kindergarten, as undetected lazy eye may be more complicated to treat past seven years of age.

Some of the issues the eye doctor may look for, in addition to good visual acuity, are the ability to focus, eye teaming and tracking, visual perception, hand-eye coordination, depth perception and peripheral vision. They will also assess the health of the eye and look for any underlying conditions that may be impairing vision. Depending on the problem the eye doctor may prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy to correct the issue.

During the school years a child’s eyes and vision continue to develop and change so it is important to continually check in on your child’s vision. If you have a family history of vision problems, follow-ups are even more important. Progressive conditions like progressive myopia, strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) or astigmatism can be treated and monitored for changes with early treatment so it’s important to seek a doctor’s diagnosis as soon as signs or symptoms are present.

Make sure that your child has the best possible chances for success in school and add a comprehensive eye exam to your back to school to-do list.

Are You Missing Your Child’s Hidden Vision Problem?

Cute smiling boy with glasses 1280x853

Your toddler may show every sign of good eyesight including the ability to see objects in the distance, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she doesn’t have a vision problem.

Amblyopia is one common eye condition that is often hidden behind the appearance of good eyesight.

Also known as “lazy eye” it usually occurs when the brain begins to ignore the signals sent by one eye, often because that eye is weaker and doesn’t focus properly. Sometimes it can occur in both eyes, in which case it’s called bilateral amblyopia. This eye condition is especially common in preemies, and tends to run in families as well, so it’s important to provide your eye doctor with a complete medical and family history.

There are several factors that can cause amblyopia to develop. These include:

  • astigmatism,
  • high nearsightedness or farsightedness,
  • uneven eye development as an infant,
  • congenital cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye),
  • strabismus (where the eyes are misaligned or “cross-eyed”)

However in many cases of amblyopia there may be no obvious visible structural differences in the eye. In addition to the fact that the eyes may look normal, vision often appears fine as the brain is able to compensate for the weaker eye by favoring the stronger one. Because of this, many children live with their eye condition for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, as a person ages, the brain loses some of its plasticity (how easy it is to train the brain to develop new skills), making it much harder – if not impossible – to treat amblyopia in older children and adults. That’s why it’s so important for infants and young children to have a thorough eye exam.

Are There Any Signs of Amblyopia?

If you notice your child appears cross-eyed, that would be an indication that it’s time for a comprehensive eye exam to screen for strabismus and amblyopia development.

Preschoolers with amblyopia sometimes show signs of unusual posture when playing, such as head tilting, clumsiness or viewing things abnormally close.

However, often there are no signs or symptoms. The child typically does not complain, as he or she does not know what normal vision should look like. Sometimes the condition is picked up once children begin reading if have difficulty focusing on the close text. The school nurse may suggest an eye exam to confirm or rule out amblyopia following a standard vision test on each eye, though it might be possible to pass a vision screening test and still have amblyopia. Only an eye doctor can make a definitive diagnosis of the eye condition.

So How Do You Know If or When To Book a Pediatric Eye Exam?

Comprehensive eye and vision exams should be performed on children at an early age. That way, hidden eye conditions would be diagnosed while they’re still more easily treatable. An eye exam is recommended at 6 months of age and then again at 3 years old and before entering first grade. The eye doctor may need to use eye drops to dilate the pupils to confirm a child’s true refractive error and diagnose an eye condition such as amblyopia.

Treatment for Amblyopia

Glasses alone will not completely correct vision with amblyopia in most cases, because the brain has learned to process images from the weak eye or eyes as blurred images, and ignore them. There are several non-surgical treatment options for amblyopia. While your child may never achieve 20/20 vision as an outcome of the treatment and may need some prescription glasses or contact lenses, there are options that can significantly improve visual acuity.

Patch or Drops

In order to improve vision, one needs to retrain the brain to receive a clear image from the weak eye or eyes. In the case of unilateral amblyopia (one eye is weaker than the other), this usually involves treating the normal eye with a patch or drops to force the brain to depend on the weak eye. This re-establishes the eye-brain connection with the weaker one and strengthens vision in that eye. If a child has bilateral amblyopia, treatment involves a regimen of constantly wearing glasses and/or contact lenses with continual observation over time.

Your eye doctor will prescribe the number of waking hours that patching is needed based on the visual acuity in your child’s weak eye; however, the periods of time that you chose to enforce wearing the patch may be flexible. During patching the child typically does a fun activity requiring hand eye coordination to stimulate visual development (such as a favorite video game, puzzle, maze etc) as passive activity is not as effective.

The earlier treatment starts, the better the chances are of stopping or reversing the negative patterns formed in the brain that harm vision. Amblyopia treatment with patches or drops may be minimally effective in improving vision as late as the early teen years (up to age 14) but better results are seen in younger patients.

Vision Therapy

Many optometrists recommend vision therapy to train the eyes using exercises that strengthen the eye-brain connection. While success rates tend to be better in children, optometrists have also seen improvements using this occupational therapy type program to treat amblyopia in adults.

The key to improvement through any non-surgical treatment for amblyopia is compliance. Vision therapy exercises must be practiced on a regular basis. Children that are using glasses or contact lenses for treatment, must wear them consistently. Your eye doctor will recommend the schedule of the patching, drops, or vision therapy eye exercise and the best course of treatment.

Amblyopia: Take-home Message

Even if your child is not showing any signs of vision problems, and especially if they are, it is important to have an eye examination with an eye doctor as soon as possible, and on a regular basis. While the eyes are still young and developing, diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions such as amblyopia are greatly improved.

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