August is Vision & Learning Month and as a new school year approaches it's an excellent time to explore the vital role of vision in learning.
Vision is not the same as sight. Our eyes provide a picture, but vision is how the brain processes that picture and how the eyes and brain work together. Vision is learned and it enables us to make sense of the world and interact with it. It impacts how we think and feel, how we solve problems, and it greatly impacts learning. In fact, 80% of a child's learning is through vision.
Good vision is essential to learning the basics such as reading and writing and to mastering other important tasks, especially those demanding fine motor skills like tying shoe laces and using scissors. Poor vision makes learning difficult. Imagine struggling in class to adjust the focus of your eyes from near to far as you look from the notebook on your desk to the chalkboard. How well could you keep up with the teacher? Now, imagine that as the day progresses, the words in your books become increasingly blurry. These types of vision problems can go undetected for years.
At Eyes Focused on You, we work to help our patients take charge of their overall health and the health of their families. Regular eye examinations should be an integral part of your child's healthcare because they can detect vision problems early and, with proper treatment, prevent learning difficulties.
See an optometrist for regular eye exams
Children should be examined by an optometrist prior to starting school and every year thereafter. Relying on in-school eye screening is not enough because they miss up to 75% of children with vision problems and check for less than 4% of potential issues. This means many children go untreated and even misdiagnosed, and parents believe that vision is not a concern.
An exam performed by an optometrist, however, checks all aspects of vision -- acuity, focusing, teaming, tracking, alignment, eye co-ordination, eye movement and control, visual integration, and colour perception. So, it is vital that your child's vision is checked properly and regularly as vision problems are not outgrown.
Limit screen time for better learning
Many children and even toddlers spend three plus hours a day gazing at a smart phone, tablet or other device. Excessive screen time can cause temporary problems such as dry eye and impact learning. This is because screens encroach on traditional childhood activities such as free play, hobbies, and puzzles. These require more than just pushing keyboard buttons and help develop essential visual skills such as hand-eye co-ordination and spatial concepts. Today, it's not unusual for a child to enter kindergarten unable to grip a pencil, hold a piece of paper still while colouring, or cut and glue shapes.
Vision Therapy can treat some vision problems
As part of our commitment to provide a full scope of care for our patients, we recently opened a Vision Therapy (VT) clinic at Eyes Focused on you. FOCUS VISION THERAPY offers vision therapy services to children and adults. Not all vision problems require corrective eye glasses or contact lenses, in some cases VT may be recommended instead.
Vision Therapy is a program of exercises or procedures that can improve a number of vision problems including crossed eyes, lazy eye, and some reading and learning disabilities. VT is also used to treat post-concussion syndrome, traumatic brain injuries and many other vision problems. Each VT program is designed for the needs of the individual and tools such as lenses, prisms, balance beams, a trampoline, and bean bags are usually included in therapy. VT is not simply eye exercises, it is a scientifically based program that, when combined with visual examination and committed participation, can lead to impactful results. For more about VT, see our blog here.
Don't let a vision problem limit your child's learning. Make visiting an optometrist part of your back-to-school routine.