It’s vital to get your children’s eyes checked. Small children simply don’t know if they have a problem
Children’s eyecare is something that we are passionate about at Aves Optometrists. Polly Dulley led the UK Association of Optometrists’ campaign for Children’s Eyecare for many years and also worked for the College of Optometrists in formulating a Higher Qualification in Paediatrics for the profession. She has taught on the paediatric optometry programme at City University in London for the past 3 years.
At Aves, we offer eye examinations to children of all ages, fully funded by the NHS. Here are some commonly asked questions about children’s eyecare.
Why is it important for children to have their eyes checked?
It is estimated that one in five children have an undiagnosed eye problem, and this could range from not being able to see the board at school to an undiagnosed cataract. It is easy to assume that if a child doesn’t complain about visual problems, then their vision must be fine, but this is certainly not the case. Most children who have undiagnosed visual problems, simply assume that everyone sees the way they do. Only 53% of children in the UK have ever had any kind of eye test and this accounts for all those undetected visual problems that children have to cope with. School work will certainly be affected, and this will affect the child’s development in many ways.
Don’t school nurses check their vision at school?
Many parents assume that school nurses check children’s eyes and, in the Epping area, there is still provision for school nurses to do a vision check in reception class. A vision check alone, however, will fail to pick up many eye problems that a full eye examination by a qualified optometrist would.
Will I have to pay for my child’s eye examination?
Eye examinations are funded by the NHS for ALL children in full time education until their 19th birthday.
How can you do an eye examination if my child doesn’t yet know his/her letters?
Vision can be assessed in many different ways. We can assess vision in children under a year old by using objective, preferential looking techniques. We can use picture matching charts in toddlers who are able to name or point to pictures shown on a chart.
How early should I bring in my child for an eye examination?
There is no lower limit to how soon we can examine your child’s eyes. Even in babies, we are able to check that the eyes are healthy, measure the prescription and check that the eyes are working together. If you have any concerns, bring your child in to see us. If you have no worries, a check before the age of three is suggested. A condition called amblyopia, or lazy eye is best treated before the age of three, and your child would not necessarily show any signs or symptoms.
Aves has been involved in this area of optometry which investigates the use of coloured filters to aid reading and associated near vision tasks for many years. Some people who struggle with their reading and/or writing may suffer from visual stress and it is these individuals who may benefit from the use of colour. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, associated particularly with reading and spelling. Many people with dyslexia suffer from visual stress. Visual stress is NOT the same as dyslexia but is more common in those who are dyslexic. Visual stress can also occur in people who are not dyslexic.
Symptoms of visual stress:
Movement of printed text
Blurring of print
Letters appear to change size or shape
Patterns appear in print
Halos of colour surround letters or words
Tire easily when reading
Headaches or visual discomfort
Red, sore, watery eyes
Signs of visual stress:
Moves closer to or further away from book
Uses a finger as a marker on the page
Skips words or lines
Rubs eyes or blinks a lot when reading
Poor understanding of reading content
Frustration and low self-esteem
Research has shown that the use of colour can greatly improve visual comfort in people with visual stress. Other groups of people who may benefit from the use of coloured filters include those with reading difficulties, dyspraxia, certain learning difficulties, epilepsy and migraine sufferers.
Eye tracking is often affected in cases of visual stress, along with some binocular problems. Until now, there hasn’t been a way to measure eye tracking in a clinical set up. However, Aves have just invested in a brand new computerised eye tracking system. This enable us to measure how well the eyes follow text when reading, giving us a repeatable measure with which to compare when using a coloured filter to read.
How to find out if colour can help
Eye examination – everyone who displays problems with reading should be seen for a full eye examination to exclude the need for conventional spectacles. It is then necessary to look at the way the eyes work together (binocular vision) to see if eye exercises might help. Although for some children, prescribing spectacles and eye exercises will solve the problem, there are many for whom this is not the answer. These children should be assessed to see if they would benefit from reading with colour.
Eye tracking and colour assessment – eye tracking measures any specific reading difficulty as a baseline. After this measurement, a coloured filter assessment is carried out and eye tracking re-measured to assess the difference it makes to reading.
Use of coloured filters – if the use of colour is found to help reading, the colour selected can be used as a plastic overlay sheet or as tinted spectacle lenses, incorporating any spectacle prescription, if required.