Parents, you should be aware of signals of poor vision. Eighty percent of learning comes through vision. If your child is not seeing one hundred percent of that eighty percent, they are not going to keep up with the child that has perfect vision.
Babies and toddlers compensate for poor vision rather than talk about it. I always tell parents when they ask me why their child doesn’t complain about their poor vision; I tell them they don’t know they have bad vision.
There are different eye problems you should look for. If one eye turns or crosses, that eye may not see as well as the other eye.
Children who are uninterested in faces or age-appropriate toys, and have eyes that rove around or jiggle may have a condition called Nystagmus and poor vision should be suspected.
Other signs to watch for are tilting the head and squinting. Nearsightedness (distant objects appear blurry) typically begins between the ages of five and fifteen but can start earlier.
Farsightedness is actually normal in young children and not a problem as long as it is mild. If a child is too farsighted, vision is blurry or the eyes cross when looking closely at things. This is usually apparent around the age of two. Almost everyone has some amount of astigmatism (oval instead of round cornea). Glasses are required only if the astigmatism is strong.
Unlike adults, children who need glasses may develop a second problem, called amblyopia or lazy eye. Amblyopia means even with the right prescription, one eye (or sometimes both eyes) does not see normally. Amblyopia is more likely to occur if the prescription needed to correct one eye is stronger than the other. Wearing glasses can prevent amblyopia from developing in the more out-of-focus eye.
Children (and adults) who do not see well with one eye because of amblyopia, or because of any other medical problem that cannot be corrected, should wear safety glasses to protect the normal eye.
Should a baby need glasses, the prescription can be determined fairly accurately by dilating the pupil and analyzing the light reflected through the pupil from the back of the eye.
People are often confused about the importance of glasses for children. Some believe that if children wear glasses when they are young, they won't need them later. Others think wearing glasses as a child makes one dependent on them later. Neither is true. Children need glasses because they are genetically nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic. These conditions do not go away nor do they get worse because they are not corrected.
The child will just not see well without glasses. Glasses or contacts are necessary throughout life for good vision.
Most lenses today, especially for children, are made of Polycarbonate or Trivex, which is stronger and lighter than plastic. It is a good idea to get a scratch-resistant coating on their lenses. Children can be rough with glasses and the lenses can be protected easily.
Lenses that respond to changes in light can be incorporated into your child’s glasses. They are called Transitions and come in either brown or gray. For children, this is a good idea because the color change is automatic, depending on how bright the light conditions are near your child.
Frames come in all shapes and sizes. Choose one that fits comfortably but securely. There are devices available to keep glasses in place, a good idea for active children and young children with flat nasal bridges. Cable temples, which wrap around the back of the ears, are good for toddlers. Infants may require a strap across the top and back of the head instead of earpieces. Flexible hinges hold glasses in position, allow the glasses to "grow" with the child, and prevent the side arms from being broken.