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This Healthy Vision Month Dig Deeper into Children’s Vision Issues

Our eyes look, but our brain sees and sometimes for kids there is a disconnect between the two.

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AS WE REFLECT ON Healthy Vision Month, let’s consider the following: There are 1.3 billion people living with some form of vision impairment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About 80 percent of those impairments are considered avoidable.

The American Optometric Association estimates up to 80 percent of a child’s learning is through vision and 10 percent of children have a vision issue significant enough to impact their learning, according to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD).

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Unfortunately, it is not always easy for parents to identify symptoms or impairments in children.

For starters, their kids may not have the vocabulary or awareness to describe what they’re experiencing. One of my granddaughters struggled with her vision until she was prescribed -6.00 lenses. She was two years old. The issue is complicated by the following statistic: nearly two-thirds of children with some kind of vision impairment are also living with at least one developmental disability, according to the CDC. Poor vision can exacerbate the severity of a disability; the latter can sometimes mask the existence of the former.

All of the above underscores the importance of early and regular eye health exams. It also creates opportunities for new kinds of vision therapy, such as Neuro-Visual Training (NVT).

According to Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis, a Canadian optometrist who runs Mind’s Eye Neuro-Visual Optometry in Toronto, NVT goes above and beyond traditional eyecare with a holistic approach to vision health.

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Our eyes look, but it is our brain that sees, and any disconnect between the two can create significant learning challenges.

He reminds us that while reading challenges, frustration, and poor grades could be the result of a learning disability, they could also stem from poor communication between their eyes and brain. He also says about 80 percent of the symptoms of someone who needs NVT are identical to the symptoms of someone with ADHD.

As a result, the COVD says typical vision screenings can miss at least half of vision problems.

It is easy for parents and teachers to miss or mistake signs of vision impairment. If a child cannot sit still, is easily distracted, complains of headaches or eyestrain, consistently asks others — including parents — to read to them, or confuses their b’s and d’s, the child could be struggling with underdeveloped visual systems. Rather than dismissing their behavior or complaints, it is critical to consider whether a relatively small amount of training could help address these issues, and ultimately set a child up for success in the classroom and in life.

There are several ways optometrists can help. They can have their recallers book eye health appointments for parents together with their children. They can ask parents whether their kids have demonstrated any of the above behaviors. By learning more about the applications of NVT, and by encouraging patients to do the same, we can start to broaden the scope and impact of Healthy Vision Month by considering the health of all elements of our vision for all ages.

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Pauline Blachford works with ECPs on strategies for recalling, increasing eyewear sales, and improving staff productivity. She is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and events, and writes regularly for a variety of industry publications. Visit her at paulineblachford.com

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