We take normal vision for granted and often forget that vision is actually a learned skill. Did you know your new-born baby sees a blurred world of light and dark patterns? Their hand-eye co-ordination and depth perception develops within their first four months. Eye muscle co-ordination develops in tandem with their ability to understand what they are looking at and a child’s ability to see detail develops over the first year along with their ability to focus. Newborn babies can’t even see the biggest letter on the eyechart!
Vision continues to develop until young children have what we would recognise as normal vision at about a year. If development is obstructed in any way, it can have lifelong consequences. Family history is a clue of what to anticipate but abnormalities can also occur out of the blue. Some problems are hereditary and genetic in nature, like colour deficiency, others may happen as a result of anatomical causes or injury. Some are minor and may just need diligent following, but others are serious and need urgent intervention.
Your child’s eyes will be checked at birth for serious eye problems. Well Child/Tamariki Ora services offer free eye checks from 4-6 weeks to 5 years, with the B4 school check as the final free eye check. Eye turns and difficulty seeing things should be always investigated. Children often do not grow out of problems, this is a myth. Importantly, children often don’t complain but just make do as best they can. This can seriously upset their general and visual development.
“The child’s first routine eye examination should be scheduled before the end of the first year of life. Where a family history of strabismus, amblyopia, high refractive error, or early vision loss exists, the child should be examined by 6 months of age. When no anomalies are detected the next examination should be scheduled at age 3 years. The sensitivity of the visual system to interruption of normal development (particularly for amblyopia) and the importance of vision in learning and the classroom environment, places early detection of vision problems in the best interests of the well child. The next routine examination should be scheduled as the child enters school, age 4½ to 5½ years and every two years thereafter. Children considered to be at risk for developing eye vision problems may need additional testing or more frequent re-evaluation.”
Good vision is essential to your School age child’s learning and reading performance and is often overlooked by parents and teachers as a cause of learning difficulties. Ocular coordination and fatigue are also potential causes of problems. An eyetest should be part of every investigation into why a child is underperforming at school. Avoidance behaviour is an important clue that something may not be quite right.