Parents are constantly bombarded with messages about their children’s healthcare. The importance of vaccinations, healthy eating habits, good dental hygiene, properly-fitted shoes etc., are emphasised. However, parents are rarely reminded or educated about the importance of the health of their childrens’ eyes.
A child’s eyesight is their most important tool for learning and has a major impact on their personal development. About 80% of a child’s learning is visual, yet many children do not see well enough to reach their full potential. It is estimated that up to 25% of children have undiagnosed vision defects.
The importance of regular eye examinations in childhood cannot be emphasised enough. It is recommended that children have an eye examination by the age of three, or earlier if you think that there may be a problem or if there is a family history of vision problems including squints. Sight checks carried out by GPs or school screenings are not as comprehensive as a full eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A child’s vision continues to develop until the age of eight, and without early treatment vision defects can become permanent disabilities.
Many parents are unaware that their child has a visual defect and do not realise that vision can change quickly as young eyes develop. Very conscientious and caring parents who make sure that they look after every other aspect of their child’s health are understandably upset when they realise that visual defects which could have been treated quite easily at an early age have now become permanent, life-long conditions.
A child may not tell you if they have a problem. Children assume that the way they see is normal as they have never known any different. The writing and diagrams below illustrate the way which some children see the printed word.