Aug 3, 2022
How eyesight problems in the classroom are often misdiagnosed.
Often children who suffer from poor eyesight get branded as “problem kids” or assigned a behavioral issue. Here are some common problems we see kids who come into us having in the classroom or when doing homework. As a teacher, parent, or anyone involved with a child – this is what you can do to be on the lookout.
Parents and teachers arguably spend the most time with kids and are the first to notice when habits and behaviors change. When it comes to vision, sometimes these changes are easier to spot in the classroom before they are apparent outside of it.
The school year is starting up again, and as kids start spending less time outside or at home and more time reading and looking at a board, vision problems that were not obvious before can become more apparent. There are a few things teachers and educators can be on the lookout for when it comes to recognizing a struggling student.
- Does the student ask for help from others when you give directions, write on the board, or display something? A student that appears to be talking with their classmates when you are teaching might not be able to see what it is you are doing and has to ask those around them to relay information. These students can also be hesitant to speak up, answer questions, or read aloud in class for fear of missing vital information or not understanding what is going on.
- When you have a student that always seems to act out, is it because they don’t want to follow the rules, or they don’t know them? Sometimes, a child that on the outside appears to always be trying to bend the rules or likes to test them might just be missing them. When kids can’t see, it leads to kids misunderstanding a lot of the rules and subtle behaviors that go with being part of a classroom. Many times these kids get labeled as “problem children” or given behavioral diagnoses before a simple vision check is done.
- We all see the kids that are in various stages of growth. Especially those going through growth spurts – seem to be running into things, tripping, or just generally not used to their bodies! But if you see a child that seems to struggle more than is normal, especially with things like depth perception, corners, and things of that nature, it might be time to schedule them for an eye exam.
- Students that seem to drop in academic performance can do so for a number of reasons. However, one of the first things to check when students’ grades and work decline is their eyesight. A student that struggles to see what it is they are learning might not have the ability to recognize that they need help with their vision. Some kids will just find alternative activities or pastimes rather than completing their work, while for others the work takes longer and is more tedious. A child that seems to take less interest or struggles more with their coursework might be struggling to see.
- We all get headaches in suboptimal visual conditions – when it’s too bright outside, trying to read when there isn’t enough light – that fort of thing. When you notice a child that seems to get a lot of headaches, closes their eyes or puts their head down a lot, it might be time to see if there is something going on with their eyesight.
- Do you have a child that just does not seem to focus on anything for very long? Maybe they can’t see things very well. Many children have trouble concentrating and paying attention for long periods of time (as do adults!); for some, it has more to do with not being able to see what’s happening, and therefore quickly refocusing interest and enjoyment on things that are easier for them to see.
- If a kid has to hold objects like books, scissors when cutting, papers, or screens code to their face, it is an almost sure sign that they need to be checked for vision correction. Sometimes children do this intermittently, to be closer to the words, more involved in the action, to do the activity faster, etc – but a kid who needs correction will do this consistently, and will hesitate with activities when unable to do so.
- Is your student spending a lot of time alone, especially during recess? Some activities, like lunch, don’t necessarily require the best eyesight. But once we head outdoors and things like balls, frisbees, and running get involved, kids that are struggling to see well start to hang back and stop joining in. If they just don’t like sports, totally fine! Just make sure that they are able to see what’s going on if so if they did want to play they could.
- A child that seems to struggle with emotional and facial cues from others might have more going on than meets the eye, but they might be having a hard time reading these cues because of vision problems. Often when a child can’t see small details on the face or the body, they won’t understand or mirror them, and can’t respond appropriately. This opens them up to a host of difficulties, but when caught and corrected sooner rather than later can save them and you a lot of time, energy, and headaches, and will make such an improvement in their quality of life.
Here are some common problems we see in children, and what you might see in their daily lives::
Amblyopia: This is “lazy eye.” It is common in children and occurs when the eyes and the brain don’t work together properly and it only uses one of the eyes to process information. Be looking out for messy handwriting, bad hand-eye coordination, depth-perception issues, and difficulty reading.
Strabismus: this is another one where the brain doesn’t use both eyes together. Many children with this problem experience double vision, headaches, eye strain, and eye fatigue. Look for children exhibiting any of the same difficulties as amblyopia, as well as balance and coordination problems, closing or covering one eye, especially when reading or watching a screen, and difficulty focusing.
Accommodative Disorder: this occurs when the eyes are unable to focus properly. It especially happens when trying to look at things close by or going between looking at a nearby object to one further away. Many kids with this problem have blurry vision, eye fatigue, eye discomfort, and frequent headaches. They might also struggle with reading, computer work, writing, or seeing the front of the classroom after looking at their desk. Some students with this problem tend to rub their eyes a or blink lot, especially when trying to get them to focus.
Convergence Insufficiency: when the eyes have trouble moving or focusing inward, or focusing on closer objects, this might be the issue. It will be especially apparent when the child is trying to do closer work or read, but many times they won’t even notice something is wrong. Often they have double or blurry vision, trouble reading and concentrating, headaches, eye strain, and fatigue. Be on the lookout for kids who skip words or lines and frequently lose their place when reading, take longer than before with their work, cover one eye to work or read, squint, or move their face continuously closer and further from a book/paper/screen to try to focus on it.
Most of these problems, if caught sooner rather than later, are able to be fixed with corrective intervention such as glasses, eyepatches, vision therapy, and other relatively simple forms of treatment. If left unrecognized and untreated, the damage can become permanent. When vision is affected, it affects all other avenues of life. Vision problems, especially at such a pivotal age as childhood, develop into other concerns. That’s why we work so hard to help you recognize any eyesight issues early in life and start treatment while kids are young.