Poor eyesight may be the reason children suffer permanent vision problems and academic regression.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that 80% of all learning in a child’s first 12 years happens visually, but only 86% of children receive a vision test during that time.

That translates into about 10 million children across the country who will not have an eye exam during their first 12 years of life, said Dr. Joseph Calderone Jr., with Better Vision NJ in Cranford.

It’s not just reading and math that could be affected but The World Health Organization reported that childhood vision problems can result in delayed motor, language, cognitive, emotional, and social development, said Calderone.

The only way to prevent a child from experiencing such problems is by having their vision examined.

Calderone said non-visual symptoms associated with such a delay could include fatigue, fidgeting, and irritability which could have a variety of causes such as learning disabilities.

“But both The American Academy of Ophthalmology and The American Academy of Pediatrics agree that learning disabilities are not caused by visual problems and cannot be treated with glasses or vision training. Therefore, it’s important to identify early the visual issues which can cause these non-specific problems and treat them before the symptoms happen,” he said.

Common vision problems in children

The most common vision problem affecting children is refractive error. It’s an optical problem such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), and astigmatism (blurred vision), all of which can be improved almost immediately with an eyeglass prescription, Calderone added.

If a child suffers from severe vision problems such as amblyopia (lazy eye), they probably need interventive treatment as soon as possible, or they may suffer long-term visual and cognitive problems, according to Calderone.

“These are some vision problems that are very common, but may cause some issues with performance at school if left untreated,” Calderone said.

While these issues may prove difficult in the classroom, they may also cause physical discomforts such as headaches and dizziness. This can affect concentration which could possibly lead to plummeting grades, threaten school performance and lead to other behavioral issues.

Get your kids screened

Many parents rely on vision screening tests at school, but these tests can miss up to 60% of treatable vision problems. Calderone said parents should consider taking their child for an eye exam every year before the school year begins.

“When a child is hampered by a visual defect and receives treatment with something as simple as a pair of glasses, it can be a life-changing event both in and out of the classroom with positive ramifications in both academics and life in general for years to come,” said Calderone.

He said kids must receive eye screenings at birth, between 6 and 12 months old, between the ages of 1 and 3, between 3 years old and 5 years old, and again at 5 years of age.

Screenings should be able to detect misaligned eyes before a child can even read an eye chart.

With early detection and treatment of visual impairments, the visual problems can be managed by the health care profession and any learning disabilities that develop, can be managed by the teaching profession, Calderone said.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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