How should we care for the visual health of children?
If the child is found to exhibit certain telltale behaviors or habits when they have to distinguish something from afar or nearby, it is likely that we are facing a problem of visual acuity. Some of these habits can tell us that our child cannot see well:
- He/she lacks good judgment when choosing colors. If we notice that the chromatic color mixes are jarring or unappealing, we may find ourselves facing a problem of some level of color blindness.
- The child adopts strange head postures in a sustained manner. These postural habits, made unconsciously, may owe to the fact that the child is trying to better focus images.
- His/her “nose is stuck to the book.” When the child has trouble seeing up close, he or she will often get too close to the paper in order to read and be able to see the writing.
- The child is easily distracted and stops listening. Visual problems may cause the child to lose interest in reading, games or explanations because they get tired trying to concentrate on a difficult task.
- The child sits too close to the screen. This may be due to nearsightedness at close or medium ranges.
- He or she adopts poor posture for writing. These bad postural habits can indicate a lack of visual acuity, and are unconsciously adopted in order to focus and see well.
Being alert to these signals is paramount for both parents and teachers. During schooling, especially when children begin to read and write, their progress may be heavily penalized by vision problems.
Hyperopia in children.
Farsightedness is often present from childhood, and often due to the smaller size of our eyeballs. When physical maturity is reached, farsightedness may disappear. Many adults have less than one diopter of hyperopia, and retain good vision until they begin to experience signs of loss in acuity with age.
Due to the elasticity of a child’s eyes, there are many cases where farsightedness goes unnoticed in routine school examinations. In these instances, only observation by parents and teachers may act to reveal the problem. If you have a family history with this refractive problem, there is a greater likelihood that your children may share the condition.
Myopia in children.Like adults, children who suffer from nearsightedness are characterized by not properly observing distant objects. These children often squint to compensate for the refractive error and focus better. Those who do not wear glasses or have not had this nearsightedness corrected are usually more shy and confused, and prefer passive activities such as reading, painting or crafts, given that these and other tasks are performed at very close distances.
Premature infants have a high probability of suffering from myopia; almost 40% of that population. Those with myopic parents or grandparents should be examined by an ophthalmologist or optometrist specialized in child vision. Not all children allow themselves to be easily examined, and not all specialists have the necessary patience to deal with these small patients.
Tests can be done on babies, but the ideal time to examine the vision of a child commences at three years of age.