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What To Know About Child Eye Health

Having good eyesight is an important part of completing activities and daily responsibilities. Vision is used to gather information, trigger motor responses, and estimate distances. While adults may be able to detect a change in their vision, it is often difficult for children to identify and express.

Emily Mason, Occupational Therapist at Keystone Pediatric Therapies, shares what parents need to know about children’s eye health.

Are eye chart screenings enough?

Many children are required to have annual eye exams via school or the doctor. However, while these facilities are evaluating children’s visual acuity (clarity of vision), they are often not examining developmental eye movements, or how the eyes are working together. The prevalence of visual deficits and difficulties is increasing among children with special needs, affecting 75% to 90% of these children.

What are developmental eye movements?

Developmental eye movements include saccades, tracking/pursuits, and convergence.

Saccadic eye movements are quick movements of the eyes between two points in various directions (left and right, diagonally, up and down). These movements should be a short, quick movement between the targets, and the child should be able to do it without moving his or her head. These eye movements are important for tasks such as spatial awareness and reading.

Pursuits, or tracking, are eye movements that follow a moving object in various directions. The children’s eyes should be moving together, and they should not lose the target object. If the child’s eyes are jumping, or they are required to move their head to track, the child may be experiencing a visual impairment.

Convergence is defined as the inward movement of both eyes. This means that the eyes are coming together to focus on a target object. A child’s eyes should move inwards together, in a smooth movement. If one or both of the child’s eyes are not converging or if the convergence is delayed, the child will have difficulty focusing on objects and will have more difficulty participating in activities.

What are some signs a child may be having vision difficulty?

If a child is experiencing visual deficits, it can have a huge impact on their performance during daily activities. Children with visual impairment often experience increased difficulty with academic activities – often struggling with handwriting, math, reading and attention. In addition to academic activities, children may also struggle with dressing tasks such as tying shoes and fastening buttons or zippers, which limits overall independence. Vision also plays an important role in motor components of activities such as hand-eye coordination, balance and manipulating small pieces, which are all skills needed to engage in daily activities.

How can occupational therapy help?

Occupational therapists work to improve and sustain quality of life and independence of their patients during their daily lives. Since vision is an important aspect of participating in activities, occupational therapists can integrate vision activities into treatment sessions. By working to improve how a patient’s eyes work together, occupational therapists can, as a result, help to improve a person’s or child’s overall performance and participation in activities that are important to the patient.

 

This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.