The British Columbia Association of Optometrists (BCAO) and American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children receive their first eye examination within the first year of life. According to the AOA, the percentage of school-aged children who have visual concerns is 25 percent, or one in every four children. Major optometric associations recommend that children have routine eye examinations.
What are the benefits of routine eye examinations? Routine eye examinations can rule-out sight threatening eye and health diseases or disorders. They can prove a preventive measure, as well as, a resource for monitoring health related issues.
Routine eye examinations can provide a baseline for which future eye health can be compared. The determination of an accurate prescription can result in comfortable, clear vision.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AN EYE EXAM
As a child, having an appointment with a healthcare professional, can be an intimidating experience. Children need to know that the “eye-doctor” is there to help people see better. Not all optometrists work, or work well with children. Be certain that you find an optometrist who you are comfortable with having your child see for their optometric examination.
Optometrists are unique in that, they are frequently trained to be prepared for all ages, and intellectual quotient (IQs). Many optometrists will use visually stimulating devices to work with infants to very young children. A difficulty for younger children is that they are still developing their language and comprehensive skills. Therefore, an optometrist may not rely upon their verbal expressions for a diagnostic impression.
SIGNS OF VISUAL DIFFICULTIES
Your child may need an eye examination if they complain or appear to be having difficulty with the following:
* sitting close to a television or computer monitor
* complaints of headaches, blurred vision, red eyes
* eye rubbing, squinting, or closing of eye
* turned or crossed eyes
* reading comprehension or difficulty reading
* apprehension to read or lack of desire
* reduced attention to detail while coloring or writing
* holding books or other reading material at an unusual distance
* tilting of head
* light sensitivity
* children who were born prematurely
* history of eye injury
* family history of eye related diseases
* developmental delays
PREPARING A CHILD FOR AN EYE EXAMINATION
Children react to your perceptions, fears, and stigmas. If you voice a negative reaction to a healthcare professional, then your child is more apt to feel discomfort when having an optometric examination. Be optimistic, displaying concern where concern is needed, but displaying enthusiasm for any required visual corrective devices that improve your child’s eyesight.
THE BENEFITS OF GLASSES IN THE CLASSROOM
Children are typically prescribed glasses for three visual conditions; Myopia (near-sided), Hyperopia (farsighted); and/or Astigmatism. In some cases, children may require corrective eyewear for treatment of Strabismus (turned eye); and/or Amblyopia (lazy eye).
Children who receive corrective eyewear will not only see better, but are often known to have a measurable improvement in their academics. It has been found that corrective lenses help with attention, comprehension, and motivation.
When a younger child is required to wear glasses, it has been recommended by eye professionals that they be introduced to their new peers wearing the prescriptive eyewear. The rationale, is that a child who is wearing a pair of glasses sets a precedent placing the “glasses” as a fixture of their physical makeup. Therefore, avoiding the sometimes awkward and “new” glasses phase.
OVERCOMING THE STIGMATIZATION OF GLASSES AND OTHER OPTOMETRIC AIDES
Children mock and name call others who appear different. It is important that children are taught that different should be embraced not ridiculed.
Allow the child to select glasses that suit their personal style and sense of fashion. Please be aware the frame selection needs to be suitable for the prescription lenses.
BE PROACTIVE PARENTS
As a parent be proactive, teach your children that their personal worth and value is derived from within their own being, not from another individual or group of individuals. If your child is capable of employing self-love, acceptance, and the value of personal self-worth, then the stigmatization of glasses will never have a negative influence. Parents need to provide support, optimism, enthusiasm, and encouragement. They should employ a spirit of excitement, not reservation about their child’s need for perspective eyewear. Parents should not mock or belittle others who have a need for perspective eyewear. If a parent does so and their child eventually needs perspective eyewear, then they may internalize the negative jest, causing damage to their psyche.
PARENTS AND TEACHERS
Teachers can prove a good barometer on how a child is adapting to their eyewear. In many cases, teachers are the frontline for optometrists, because they may notice that a child appears to be having difficulty reading; comprehending assignments; taking notes from a chalkboard; reporting headaches; appearing stressed over visually demanding tasks; and/or behavioral problems related to their attention, moods, and interaction with peers.
Parents should take teachers reports seriously. It is important that if your child is having difficulty in the classroom that you rule-out all possible causes and effects. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to be certain that all children receive routine examinations. Remember that visual aides are intended to improve your life not prove a detriment.
by Dr. Asa Don Brown and Dr. Tracy Lynn Brown
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA