Sight now for success later: Why children’s eye health is so important
It is estimated that 1 million children will return to school this year with an undiagnosed vision problem. Poor eyesight can have a significant effect on children’s ability to learn and on their behaviour – yet often goes unrecognized by teachers, parents and by the children themselves. Children may not be aware of or may not be able to explain their vision difficulties and a parent or teacher may not notice any problems. This can lead to frustration on the child’s part which can translate into behavioural issues when the root cause is that the poor child can not see!
The sooner that vision problems are detected – the better the outcome. Many childhood eye conditions, such as lazy eye and squint, can be treated if they are picked up early – as the eye and visual system are actively developing during the school years. If vision problems are identified and treated, it can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.
I am happy to assess children from three years old, being a mummy of a 1&4 year old I appreciate the importance of early problem detection. I have heard too many stories of parents being turned away from opticians until the child can read and I have even heard some practices won’t assess children until they are six which is ludicrous.
Sight Tests are free on the NHS for all children under the age of 16. Help towards the cost of glasses is also available on the NHS for all children.
Many parents still assume that their child will have their vision checked at school, regardless of whether this actually happens or not. Vision screening provision is patchy – many areas do not provide it. Even where vision screening is provided in school, there are many conditions which, although they may cause significant problems to a child and their ability to learn, will not be picked up at a screening. Screenings are designed to pick up amblyopia; what about moderate refractive error, binocular vision anomalies and the overall health of the eyes? A proper sight test is free – why not have one?