Why do we need good focusing skills?

Eye focusing (technically called accommodation) allows us to see clearly at different distances. Our eyes are designed to focus only at one distance at a time—so normally when looking close, far images will appear blurry. When looking far, near images will appear blurry.

How does focusing work? Our eyes are naturally designed to be clear for distance, so when we look at a near object, the lens in our eye changes shape to redirect light rays on the retina (much like a macro lens on an SLR camera). For near tasks, more effort is required to maintain a clear, sharp image for a sustained period of time.

When kids have a focusing problem, they will find their eyes fatigue very quickly and can no longer maintain the effort.

When that happens, their vision at near can flicker between clear and blurry, causing watery eyes, excessive blinking, eyestrain and headaches. Some children may avoid reading by this stage whilst others will continue to try “hard” and may hold print very close when reading.

Signs and Symptoms Your Child May Have Poor Eye Focusing Include...

  • Holds things very close
  • Complaining of blurry vision
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Saying their eyes are tired
  • Being able to read only for a short time
  • Having headaches when reading

Why Should Parents Be Concerned?

It’s important to know that not all kids who have a hard time focusing in school have a learning difficulty such as ADD or ADHD. In many cases, these could be caused by poor visual skills like eye teaming, tracking or how their eyes can comfortably switch focus between distance and near.

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Poor visual skills such as eye teaming, tracking and focusing can be difficult to detect as kids with these conditions can easily pass a vision screening test. They may not complain about any problem either.

Kids with focusing problems may appear to learn normally, but they may become frustrated quickly especially as school demands increase. This may be especially noticeable after their 3rd grade when homework gets plenty and they’re required to read smaller print.

Failure to detect an eye focusing problem may cause the affected eye to get “weaker” as the brain favours the eye that sees better. Over time, this may cause the brain to ignore the affected eye, a condition called amblyopia (or lazy eye) with its own associated problems.

How Can We Help?

Identify the Cause of the Problem

Our optometrists will provide a comprehensive eye test to determine what’s wrong. Some focusing dysfunctions are caused by basic vision problems such as long-sightedness, short-sightedness or astigmatism. Treatment may be as simple as providing spectacles to correct a refractive error.

Our Expert Optical Dispensing Team

If spectacles are needed, our qualified optical dispensers will help you select the best lens and frame for your child. Some kids with focusing difficulties may need special lenses to be able to see near and far without having to remove their spectacles.

Supervised Vision Therapy Plan

Sometimes focusing problems are not errors of refraction but due to a vision processing issue, or how the eyes and brain are not coordinated. This may entail vision therapy. Our vision therapists are well trained to provide exercises that are suited to your child’s age and specific needs.

Referral to Allied Health Providers

Some focusing problems are caused by an eye muscle problem, in which case we may refer you to an eye specialist. If we rule out an eye condition, we may refer you to a child behavioural specialist for further assessment.

Is an eye problem the reason why your child can’t focus well? Book a Behavioural Optometry test today.

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