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Family Life General Health

Back to School Vision Facts

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By Dr. Patricia Fink, Optometrist www.drfink.ca

Back to school is always full of preparatory activities such as back to school shopping for supplies, but we often forget to insure that a child’s visual processing system is assessed in order to start learning.

Eye examinations are OHIP insured until 19 years of age. In the Halton region less than 15% of JK children are getting their eyes examined. It is not a surprise that vision related learning disabilities are on the rise.  One in four (1 in 4) school aged children in Canada has a vision problem significant enough to affect their school performance.

Visual skills such as eye tracking (pursuits), eye jumping (saccades), focus (accommodation), eye flexibility, depth perception (stereovision), peripheral (side vision), and central vision (20/20) all need to be working together in harmony. A full eye examination includes this as well as an ocular health evaluation to make sure that all the structures are healthy. A complete assessment with the proper equipment and technology is far superior than any school screening.

Visual processing deficits not only affect whether or not someone can see the words on a page or on a smartboard/whiteboard. It affects visual memory (comprehension), visual spatial relations (math, reversals), form constancy, auditory-visual integration (listening, speaking, communication), visual motor integration (writing skills, pencil grips, eye-hand and hand-eye coordination), and figure-ground relationships (reading, sports, coordination).

Many of the above mentioned skills are not properly formed due to developmental delays. Children that skip crawling, crawl in an unbalanced manner (or army crawl), or had reduced tummy time suffer visual processing delays. Children that are sedentary do not receive the necessary, meaningful experiences in order to allow the eyes to properly develop. The central portion of the eye, the macula, is not fully formed at birth while the peripheral (motion section of the eye) is. For the central vision to develop, it requires the child to interact with the environment. With child seats, baby carriers, and electronic devices reducing mobility, it is no surprise that our children’s visual systems are also delayed. We need to insure that our children engage in movement and the three dimensional world in order to understand where they are and where things are in relation to them.

Add a complete visual assessment to your back to school to do list. Consider adding perceptual testing if your child has learning issues.

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