Children's Eye Development
While the eye s greatest physical development occurs during the first year of life children continue to sharpen their vision skills throughout childhood. Eye muscles strengthen and nerve connections multiply. Visual stimulation can help this process. Preschoolers aged two to five are eager to draw and look at pictures. By connecting stories with illustrations it is possible to help co-ordinate a child s hearing and vision. Moving patterns such as pinwheels and ‘I spy’ games also captivate children. One of the most important eye conditions to check for in children is amblyopia a problem that involves the development of the visual pathways to the brain. It is important to detect this condition early as the brain’s vision system is complete after a child is between 8 and 10 years old. Good eyesight requires a clear focused image that is the same in both eyes. If the image is not clear in one of the eyes or if the image is not identical in both eyes the visual pathways will not develop properly. If left untreated a child will permanently have poor vision in the amblyopic eye.
One of the common treatments of amblyopia is a patch worn over the stronger eye. This forces the child to use the weaker eye and enables the brain to fully develop connections to this eye. Patches might be prescribed by your eyecare practitioner to be used all day or part of the day depending on the child s age and reason for amblyopia. Treatment usually lasts until maximum visual benefit is achieved.
Another treatment for amblyopia is to prescribe glasses. This is typical in children about aged two and whose eyes appear turned inwards. The glasses help relax the child’s eyes and allow them to align properly. This treatment is often in conjunction with patching therapy.
Parents should be aware of the following hereditary vision conditions as your child might inherit them. Visit an eye doctor at the first sign of trouble.
- Crossed eyes
- Defects of colour vision
You should also make an appointment for a child with an eyecare practitioner if you notice the following as they may be symptoms of vision problems:
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Poor eye/hand co-ordination
- Poor reading
- Avoidance of close work
- Frequent headaches
- Decline in scholastic performance
- Constant blinking or tilting of the head
The best way to protect a child s vision is through regular professional vision examinations. Poor eyesight can affect learning athletic performance and self-esteem. Untreated eye conditions can worsen and lead to as serious a problem as blindness. Yet far too many pre-school age children never receive an vision exam and far too many back-to-school physicals do not include a close look at the eyes.
Ensure that an optometrist examines your child’s eyes before the age of three once again before the age of five and periodically throughout the school years. Your eyecare practitioner will determine if your child needs glasses and will look for common eye disorders. Prepare for this appointment by learning what to expect.