While many of us notice ourselves developing eye conditions as we grow older, uncorrected eye problems in children can lead to reading problems. And while adults are able to identify when they need glasses, little children cannot always communicate that their eyesight is lacking; they may not even realize there’s a problem. So it’s up to parents, family and teachers to look for what kids can’t describe.
Here are some telltale signs of eye trouble and hints your child may need glasses.
Squinting – scrunching up the eyes – at a page of print is the most telltale of all signs. Squinting “re-shapes” the eyes temporarily to allow for more focused sight. Glasses “re-shape” the light that goes to the eyes for the same effect, and they are a much better long-term solution.
Closing one eye.
Teachers often see kids close one eye as they read. Or we may notice a long-haired child letting his or her hair fall in front of one eye. This can be a sign that the child is compensating for a weakened eye.
This is a variation of one-eyed reading. It allows a child to focus with one eye rather than with two, compensating for one weak eye.
Eyes produce tears to cleanse or provide comfort. When eyes are constantly tearing, it’s a potential warning sign.
Remember Sally in the Peanuts comic strip who wore an eye-patch to correct her amblyopia, or rambling eye? (Snoopy stole it as part of his French Foreign Legion get-up, but that’s another story.) It’s not uncommon and is easily remedied, but it sure causes difficulties in school if left uncorrected.
Itchiness or irritation in an eye may be sign of a problem, but it may also just be a speck of dust. If your child displays this behavior consistently, you should consider seeing a doctor.
Some kids stick their heads right up to a page in a book or a screen. Sometimes this is just a sign of intense interest – “Oh, cool, look at the teeth on that shark!” – but it can also be a sign of trouble if it’s persistent.
Unfocused reading can cause headaches, just like when adults read without our reading glasses or use an outdated pair. (“Why is the New York Times crossword puzzle so small today?”)
Losing place or finger-pointing while reading.
These are less serious because everyone loses their place now and then while reading, and finger-pointing doesn’t have to be a sign of eye trouble. (In fact, some teachers encourage finger-pointing with their earliest readers, just to keep them concentrating.) But if a child is regularly losing her place or can’t read without her fingers, pay attention to the signs.
If a child experiences discomfort or pain with light – or conversely if he can’t read without very bright light – this may be a sign of trouble.
If you’re still unsure if your child is having difficulty, an easy trick is to ask kids to describe what they are looking at. “How many chickens are in the yard? Point to the farmer’s wagon.” Watch as they examine the scene – are thy squinting, covering an eye, or tilting their head?
So what to do if you suspect an issue? Easy. See an ophthalmologist (an eye physician) or optometrist (a vision care specialist). You and your child will be amazed at how much easier reading and school work will become!