Not being able to see the board is only one eye-related issue that affects one in four young students

Eye doctors who treat young patients know the importance of eye care among school-age children. Statistics show that one in four children aged 5 to17 have a vision problem, according to the National Commission on Vision & Health (NCVH), which can profoundly impact learning.

The sad fact is that many vision problems are going undiagnosed. NCVH found that the majority of children (79 percent) had not visited an eye care provider in the past year, and 35 percent had never seen an eye care professional.

The link between vision and academic success is not always a matter of whether or not a child can see the blackboard. There is a wide range of learning-related vision problems. Here, we break down what these are, so that you eye care professionals can better educate young patients and their parents.

Glasses aren’t the answer for all children

Eye doctors know that undetected and untreated eye disorders, such as amblyopia and strabismus, can delay reading and cause students’ performance at school to suffer. Eye care professionals also know – but their patients may not – that nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are not the only visual disorders that can make learning more difficult. Parents of young children also may not realize that school vision screenings don’t detect all learning-related vision problems.

Ruling out simple refractive errors in children’s vision is only the first step.

“Many school vision screenings only test for distance visual acuity, and the vision skills needed for successful reading and learning are much more complex,” said Steven A. Loomis, O.D., immediate past president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

For more on this topic, see Why Back-to-School Vision and Hearing Exams Are Vital

Ruling out simple refractive errors is the first step in evaluating children’s vision, and many find that eyeglasses or contact lenses do help at school. Less-obvious vision problems related to the way the eyes function and how the brain processes visual information also can hinder a child’s ability to learn, however. “Any vision problems that have the potential to affect academic and reading performance are considered learning-related vision problems,” stated AllAboutVision.com.

Learning-related vision problems are not considered learning disabilities, however.

The three types of learning-related vision problems

Specific learning-related vision problems can be classified as one of three types, the first two types primarily affecting visual input, and the third primarily affecting visual processing and integration, according to Discovery Eye Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding treatments and cures for sight-threatening eye diseases.

We’ve already discussed the first type: refractive vision problems. Let parents know that if their child holds a book close to his or her face while reading or has difficulty seeing things that are far away, these are generally signs of refractive issues, but could also include higher-order aberrations. Patient education videos like this one can help parents understand the common signs of vision problems in children.

 

Functional vision problems can cause blurred or double vision, eye strain and headaches. Explain to patients that these issues relate to specific functions of the eye and the brain’s control over them, such as using the eyes together, fine eye movements, focusing skills, peripheral awareness, and hand-eye coordination.

Perceptual vision problems relate to understanding what you see, identifying it, and relating it to previously stored information in the brain. For example, is a child able to recognize words she has seen before? Can he form a mental picture of the words?

Discovery Eye Foundation also noted, “Color blindness is not considered a learning-related vision problem, but it can cause problems for very young children if color-matching or identifying specific colors are part of the classroom activities.”

How visual patient education can help

As we’ve discussed before, doctors who serve pediatric patients have some unique challenges when it comes to doctor-patient communication. Proactive, high-quality, visual patient education can help patients and caregivers of any age and literacy level, while streamlining time spent in the exam room.

For more on this topic, see Tips for Educating Young Patients and Their Parents

Discovery Eye Foundation estimates that up to 80 percent of what children learn in school is presented visually. And we know from our own research that as many as 65 to 85 percent of the population are visual learners – people who retain information better by seeing pictures or videos than by reading or hearing it. So educating all patients with visual materials just makes sense.

The message to patients and their parents should be that the first step in addressing a child’s learning issues is a comprehensive eye exam performed by an eye care professional. To illustrate and explain this, try sharing our “Children’s Eye Examinations” video with the parents of your pediatric patients via email or on your website.

If you are an eye care provider specializing in children’s vision problems, promote that fact on your website and to other providers in your area to encourage referrals.

If you are an optometrist specializing in children’s vision problems, promote that fact on your website and marketing materials using short, easy-to-understand videos like Rendia’s “Scheduling Children’s Eye Exams.”

 

You might also consider introducing yourself to other eye care professionals in your area, and maybe even school nurses, to encourage referrals.

Learning-related vision problems have far-reaching effects on children’s academic achievements, quality of life, self-esteem, and even their future employment opportunities. We owe it to our young patients to help them get the care they need.

To learn more about using Rendia’s patient education videos to promote children’s eye exams, contact us today.