A kid’s eye test is considered a necessary part of the preparation for going to school. Most experts agree that, if there is a significant vision problem, this will adversely affect their learning.
However, a kid’s eye test becomes even more important if your child is struggling at school in their learning, especially reading, writing or spelling. I want to reveal to you the types of things that are done in a kid’s eye test, and why not all eye tests are the same…
What’s in a Kid’s Eye Test, and Why Should I see You?
There are many aspects to eye examinations, so not all eye tests target the same things. It stands to reason that eye tests for children target the aspects of vision that are important for a child, especially when it comes to their learning. So a standard adult eye test, as good as it is for detecting eye disease and the need for corrective spectacle lenses, does not necessarily apply when it comes to children.
It all starts with being able to relate to the child. Kids tend to be frightened or apprehensive when it comes to a kid eye examination, so relating to them is an essential part of testing. Given the fact that many people, including my wife, think I have never really grown up, this enables me to relate to and communicate with children. It also helps to set their fears aside and to establish rapport with them.
I do not know what most Optometrists do differently when they see a child, but I can reveal what I do and the tests that I perform on a child, especially a child with learning problems, ADHD, ASD or dyslexia. Here’s what I test for…
1. Clear distance (Visual Acuity)
Every Optometrist should test for a child’s seeing ability. A child should be able to see distant objects clearly and sharply. This clarity is called visual acuity and is usually measured using the familiar Snellen eye chart which has letters of steadily decreasing size. Children who cannot read yet are usually tested using shapes, so here at Eye CU, we can test children of almost any age, or children with any disability. Problems with eye teaming can cause things like a lazy eye, which will also affect visual acuity, so an kid eye exam is important even before school commences.
2. Change in Focus (Accommodation)
A kid’s eye test must include testing of their focus ability. Kids focus differently to adults, and many times their ability to focus fatigues during the school day. The child must be able to do two things efficiently with their focus: They have to be able to change quickly and effectively from near to distance and back again (such as when they are copying off the board), and they also have to be able to sustain their focus on a near object like a book for a long period of time without tiring (such as when they are doing homework). We test both of these in children routinely, and a kid’s eye test mus include this type of testing.
The most common symptoms of a focus or an accommodation vision problem include inconsistent distance or near blur, sore eyes, headaches, losing of place copying off the board and, most common of all, POOR CONCENTRATION FOR READING!
3. Aiming the Eyes (Eye Teaming)
Another important Kid’s eye Test deals with Eye coordination, which is the ability to team two eyes together, having them fixate (look at) the same point in space with comfort and without double vision.
If the eyes do not point precisely at the same object this can cause headaches, poor concentration, tiredness, confusion or, in severe cases, double vision. This is sometimes called convergence insufficiency, and if present it greatly affects children when they read, causing them to lose their place, misread words or skip lines.
4. Eye Movements (Saccades and Tracking)
There are two main types of eye movements we look at in an eye exam for children, and both require the eyes to work together as a team. The first type is the quick and accurate movements which are used, for example, when the eyes move from one word to another while reading. These are jumping movements which are called ‘saccades’.
The second type of eye movements are known as ‘tracking’ and these should be smooth and accurate. Tracking movements are used when the eyes follow a moving object such as a ball in flight or vehicles in traffic.
Children who lose their place a lot while reading, mix up words, misread words, skip lines and often have difficulty watching the ball while playing sport. These kids may have poorly developed eye movement skills, and they can be easily helped by the right type of vision therapy.
5. Depth perception
Depth perception is another aspect of a kid’s eye test which is often overlooked. It involves the ability to determine relative distance, recognised by many as the 3D we see in TVs and at the movies. Accurate depth perception is also needed to hit a ball while playing sports, or to park a car accurately (not that many kids are doing that!). Depth perception is easily tested in a kid eye exam at Eye CU, and my experience is that many children compromise this important skill in an effort to concentrate when they face problems with their focus or eye teaming.
6. Eye-hand Coordination
Another critical part of a Children’s Vision Test is eye-hand coordination, which involves the eyes directing and controlling the hands. It is especially important in writing, and also in many sports, especially small ball sports like cricket and tennis. In younger children it plays an important role in the formation of letters and words on a page, and difficulties with eye-hand coordination are often picked up in Prep or Kindy kids when they struggle to colour in the lines.
7. Visual Memory
The skill of visual memory is essential in reading, and especially in spelling. Poor visual memory skills almost always result in poor spelling, but Darin’s special vision therapy program can help children to learn spelling words quicker and more effectively by training visual memory.
And let’s face it, if a child cannot visualise and remember sight words, how can they read effectively? This is an area I love to work with, because the results are so tangible yet easy to achieve!
8. Peripheral Vision
Peripheral or side vision is the ability to see and interpret what is happening to the sides of our vision while looking straight ahead. It is especially important for adults when driving a car and is also is key to playing a lot of sports.
However, you may not realise that it is also an important part of reading and writing for a child, helping them to maintain their place more easily and allowing them to flow as they read. Try reading through a toilet roll so you can only see a word at a time and you will experience some of what children with learning problems go through. That’s why a kid’s eye test is so important,. and should go beyond just the ability to see clearly on a page.
9. Spatial Awareness
Spatial awareness is another key developmental skill, and if this is not correctly developed, kids start to write letters and words backward. While many parents are terrified of this symptom thinking it equates absolutely with dyslexia, we have had tremendous success training spatial awareness for stopping kids reversing.
A Kid’s Vision Test is Special
I believe that a kid’s vision test should be a special experience. Relating to children and drawing out the correct answers can give insight into their struggles with learning, and while vision is not the only consideration when it comes to learning problems, it is certainly one of the main areas parents should look at.
One of the huge advantages that the visual system offers us in learning is that it is so easily and safely treated. We can use things like reading glasses and vision therapy which safe, easy to administer and very cheap compared to many of the other areas considered in treating children who struggle in school.
So if your child is struggling to learn to read, write and spell effectively, then a kid’s eye test is a great place to start!