Created on: Friday, June 07, 2013

SAN DIEGO — For children, poor eyesight often means more than just blurred vision – it often translates into poor reading ability, developmental delays, perceptual problems and low standardized test scores.

"Children should to be tested before they enter into the first grade," explained Dr. Kristin Peterson, an optometrist at the San Diego Eye & Laser Center. "They don’t really know what they’re supposed to see, and don’t necessarily understand when there’s a problem. So much of their future depends on their eyesight today. By correcting refractive errors early, we can eliminate the need to play ‘developmental catch up’ later."

Because eyesight is somewhat hereditary, parents without the need for corrective lenses often are unable to identify initial warning signs that their child is having visual difficulties. It is often not until grades suddenly decline or there’s a loss of sports-related hand-eye coordination that the problem is discovered.

Of children entering into grade school:

  • 2 to 4 percent have Hyperopia (farsightedness)
  • 2 to 4 percent have astigmatism
  • 2 percent have Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • 2 percent have eye alignment disorders
  • 8 percent (of males) have color vision abnormality

Myopia increases significantly during school years, afflicting approximately 20 percent of children by age 15.

According to published studies and P.A.V.E. (Parents Active For Vision Education), nearly 80 percent of what a child perceives, comprehends and remembers depends on the efficiency of the visual system. However, in the past decade, games that encourage the development of good vision skills have been replaced by passive visual activities such as watching television or playing computer games.

"Kids between the ages of 6 and 10 are at a very vulnerable state of learning and development," Peterson explained. "Small things can go without anyone doing anything. They may not be able to verbalize why they are having reading problems, and therefore struggle and become frustrated with school. This can be prevented by watching for the warning signs and ensuring children receive quality, routine eye care."

Once children have distanced themselves from school and sports due to poor eyesight, behavior difficulties may follow. Current studies show that approximately one out of eight children and seven out of 10 juvenile delinquents have vision problems that interfere with their ability to attain scholastic and social accomplishments.

"As a child, how we see the world greatly shapes our perceptions," Peterson said. "By giving children the gift of correct eyesight we give them so much more than clear vision. We give them an ability to learn and grow to achieve their potential."

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