A local pediatric optometrist wants to make sure that your back-to-school lists include more than notebooks, markers and glue.
A successful school year begins with good vision by having a comprehensive eye exam, which is one reason that August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, said Dr. Nahrain Shasteen, who is on staff with Vision Associates, which serves as The University of Toledo’s Department of Ophthalmology.“If your child has never had a comprehensive eye exam, it is a good idea to schedule one to make sure everything is developing well,” Shasteen said. “Blurred vision can make it difficult to see the board in school. Eye coordination, eye focusing or visual perception problems can also impact learning.”
The American Optometric Association actually recommends that a child have his or her eyes examined at 6 months of age because vision development is rapid within the first year of life, Shasteen said. If normal, the next exam should be at 3 years old and then every year once a child is in kindergarten.
The importance of early detection recently was popularized with a YouTube video that showed 10-month-old Piper seeing clearly for the first time with her new eyeglasses.
“She was a patient of the InfantSee Program, which I participate in,” Shasteen said. “Doctors participating in the American Optometric Association’s InfantSee Program provide no-cost eye examinations to infants between 6 and 12 months of age.”
Shasteen said children with vision problems often can’t communicate the issue. They might not know what normal vision looks like or they want to please their parents, so when quizzed, they indicate they can see something far away.
Signs that a child might be struggling to see include red eyes, tearing eyes or squinting. More subtle clues are tilting or turning of the head, covering an eye, having difficulty paying attention in class, loss of place when reading, or avoiding reading. Some children with vision problems have difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination and playing sports.
Shasteen said even if a child has good vision, the health of the eye needs to be protected. She recommends wearing sports goggles, which often is not emphasized in a school setting, and for parents to set a good example by wearing protective gear when mowing the lawn or working on home improvement projects. Sunglasses should be worn outside to prevent damage from ultraviolet light.
“Children learn best by what their parents are doing,” she said.
While it’s a myth that carrots will improve eyesight, Shasteen said an overall healthy diet is good for eye health because it prevents diabetes and other diseases that affect eyesight.
“As for video games, they are OK in moderation,” she said. “We actually found that video games used in vision therapy have a positive impact in improving lazy eye and other vision disorders.”