The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem. Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses. They are obviously living with a visual issue. But, what about the others? You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue. But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help? Don’t feel badly. I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either. Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect. But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit. These are the “Vision Red Flags.” And we are going to chat about them right now!
FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes. 1. Reading – plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information. – requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board). – demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information. – demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills). 2. Handwriting – plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas. – requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations. – demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product. – requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style. 3. Everyday Activities – require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook. – demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer. – require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle. – demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read. Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.
NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!
It is simple, really! Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.” Observe him as he participates in his normal activities: eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing. As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:Does he: – stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments? – appear awkward during running or climbing activities? – have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)? – walk on his toes frequently? – have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)? – hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands? – apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool? – lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work? – rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work? – appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys? Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors: – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently? – Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity? – Is there tearing or redness of the eyes? – Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting? If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source. And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities! It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart. This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t see the board from the back of the room. For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist. For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here: InfantSee. Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills! As always, thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments and hope to see you next time! Katherine
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Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
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