Much of what is presented in schools is visual, and 80% of what kids learn is through their vision. This means good vision is one of the most important criteria for childrens’ academic success.
Here are 6 childhood eye conditions that may affect how kids learn, and here’s a hint for parents and guardians: some of these eye conditions may slip by undetected.
Your child’s eyes should appear to move together. With strabismus (also called ‘eye turn’ or ‘squint’), one of the eyes may point in towards the nose or out towards the ear. Sometimes one eye may point up or down.
Strabismus in children is usually related to how their eyes focus. This may originate in the muscles themselves or in the nerves / vision centers in the brain that control binocular vision, where one of them is not functioning properly.
In some children, the strabismus may only be obvious when looking in a particular direction or when the child is tired or unwell. However, some symptoms may not be discovered until the child is old enough to describe the problem. Symptoms can include double or blurred vision and difficulty reading.
Strabismus is sometimes combined with amblyopia.
Amblyopia, commonly known as ‘lazy eye’, is a condition where one eye develops abnormally in early life. The weak, or ‘lazy’, eye is unable to achieve normal visual acuity, and typically causes blurry vision in the affected eye (even with corrective lenses), poor depth perception, and reading difficulties. In rare cases, both eyes can be affected. If left untreated, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
A lazy eye can make reading quite difficult, causing loss of place, skipping words, re-reading words, misreading or substituting words, and adding words into sentences. A child with a lazy eye must exert extra focusing effort to keep the words clear—leading to fatigue and reduced concentration while reading.
A lazy eye is generally difficult to recognize because it usually develops in only one eye, without a noticeable eye turn.
3. Convergence insufficiency
Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a common near vision condition that impacts the ability to read, learn, and work at near distances. In kids with convergence insufficiency, the eyes are unable to work together, and instead, one eye tends to drift outward or away from the target when reading or performing other near vision activities.
Children with CI often experience blurry or double vision, eye strain, and headaches when reading, using a computer or performing other near vision activities for an extended period of time. This condition tends to manifest or worsen as the demands in school increase for reading and homework assignments.
4. Poor eye tracking
Eye tracking, also called visual tracking, is the eyes’ ability to work in sync with each other to accurately follow moving objects, and precisely move from word to word in a line of text.
This visual skill, developed in early childhood, typically continues to improve as a child’s ability to read advances. If a child’s eye tracking skills don’t develop adequately, it can have a negative impact on their reading fluency and comprehension, writing and spelling abilities, math skills and their overall academic performance.
5. Poor eye focusing
Having trouble focusing on objects is called ‘accommodative dysfunction’, where the eyes can’t shift their focus from one object to another without experiencing blurry vision.
This is often caused by visually demanding tasks, like reading or looking at screens for a long time.
Poor eye focusing can also be a symptom of other eye conditions such as refractive errors (short-sighted, long-sighted, astigmatism), computer vision syndrome, and other more serious eye conditions.
6. Colour blindness
A child who is colour blind may have trouble seeing:
- the difference between colours
- how bright colours are
- different shades of colours
Usually colour blindness runs in families. There’s no cure, but special glasses and contact lenses can help. Most people who are colour blind are able to adjust and don’t have problems with everyday activities.
The most common type of colour blindness makes it hard to tell the difference between red and green. Another type makes it hard to tell the difference between blue and yellow. People who are completely colour blind don’t see colour at all, but that’s not very common. Being colour blind can make it harder to read off a chalkboard or do other activities.
The above-mentioned childhood eye conditions may not be detected during a routine eye test but can be diagnosed with a comprehensive functional vision evaluation.
Most children do not complain that there may be something wrong with how they see because they think everyone else sees as they do. Sometimes, even kids with “20/20” vision may still have an eye problem.
We advise all parents and guardians to bring their child for a comprehensive eye test to ensure that there are no eye conditions that stand in the way of their child’s academic success.
- 1. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/
- 2. https://www.optometrists.org/
- 3. https://www.visioncenter.org/
- 4. https://www.nei.nih.gov/