Good vision is among the many skills children need to read, write and learn their best. Many parents do not realize that vision is more than being able to see the words on a page or board clearly, but it is actually a form of fine-motor skill.
Just like it takes years to master the fine motor skill of controlling the tiny muscle of the fingers to write legibly, it takes years to master the coordination of the even smaller muscles that move and focus the eyes.
In addition to acceptable visual acuity, every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning in school.
- Eye tracking — the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes from word to word in a book, or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
- Eye Focusing — the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision at different distances, such as when looking from the board to a paper on the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or using a computer.
- Eye teaming — the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
- Eye-hand coordination — the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
- Visual perception — the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.
If any of these visual skills are lacking or not functioning properly, a child will have to work harder, leading to problems. School nurses and teachers need to be alert for symptoms that may indicate a child has a vision problem. Generally, a child will not report a vision problem because it is “normal” for them and they may think the way they see is the way everyone sees.
Now is the time to reach out to families in your area and invite them in for their back-to-school eye exams. Early treatment for vision issues will help children learn — and help your practice thrive, too.
This post is adapted from one published recently on the Bright Eyes Family Vision Care/Bright Eyes Kids blog. Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford practices in Tampa, FL. He is a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and leads the Children’s Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association.