The Children's Optometrist
Vision and eye health is critical in children
The children's optometrist must be mindful of the special considerations that apply to very young patients. Visual problems that are missed in childhood can grow, multiply and become permanent and serious as a patient matures. Simply stated, it is difficult to function in a visual world if your visual system is not functioning. For these reasons, It is critical to diagnose and treat vision problems early in life. No one should be forced to go through life held back by a treatable vision problem or visual disorder.
A 2011 study published in the journal, Pediatrics, found that in addition to refractive errors such as myopia and astigmatism, ocular disorders like strabismus and amblyopia that occur in infants, toddlers, and children may present lifelong problems for the child. Children that become adults with these conditions must adapt and compensate for them. Moreover, vision problems that were present in childhood may continue to plague the patient into adulthood, affecting overall health, self-perception, educational attainment, job choices, and a number of other social factors.
It is critical to catch and treat vision problems in childhood
Dr. Randhawa is often thought of as a children's optometrist. Most of her vision therapy patients are children because most ocular-motor and perceptual disorders are caught in childhood. At least, we hope that they are caught in childhood. This is one of the reasons that optometrists recommend that children see an eye doctor every year.
In fact, childhood is a critical time for human visual development. The human visual system is completely developed by the age of seven or eight. If a child has visual problems in this critical developmental period, they may, tragically, be stuck with these disorders and suffer serious consequences for their entire life. An example is amblyopia (commonly known as lazy eye) in which one eye does not see well or at all.
Amblyopia is best treated at an early age. However, recent research into neuroplasticity holds out some hope for teenagers and adults who were not diagnosed in childhood. However, even if older people are successfully treated, being forced to life with being blind in one eye during childhood can have serous consequences on their development, affecting their ability to learn, read, play sports, drive and many other basic human activities.
Children can't tell you that they have a vision problem
Children can often be seriously impacted by "ordinary" vision problems like myopia and hyperopia (nearsightedness and farsightedness). The impact of these problems is amplified because children cannot know that they have a vision problem and that they are not seeing normally. They have always seen that way and they think that every one else sees that way too.
Every optometrist can tell you a heart-warming story of a five or six year-old child who sees his mother's face for the first time in the exam room. Here is Doctor Randhawa tell the story of such a child that she examined:
A child's inability to communicate or even know about her vision problem is the reason why it is so important to see your optometrist every year to make sure that a child's eyes are developing properly and that she is seeing well enough to accomplish all the learning that must occur for proper human development. Remember that 80% of our learning comes via our visual system. As parents and eye doctors, we need to make sure that the visual system is working properly.
Proper vision care is often hampered by the system
Many parents are lulled into a sense of false security by school vision screenings. Those screenings only test if a child can read the eye chart clearly. They do not look for eye diseases, do not check to see if the eyes are moving properly or working together as a team, they do not seek do diagnose vision problems such as convergence insufficiency, visual information processing deficits, accommodation problems, and many others.
Doctors who are not vision specialists often mistake vision problems for ADHD, learning disabilities or psychiatric problems
It is also easy for doctors who are not vision specialists to jump to conclusions. That is why many children are placed into special educational programs, therapy sessions or even medicated for ADHD when they have an undiagnosed vision problem. Read the following articles to learn more:
What is the best eye-wear for kids?
60% of learning disabled students failed two or more binocular vision tests
Childhood vision disorders lead to adult problems
Kids vision development form 0 to 24 months
The dangers and health risks of an increasing prescription and what you can do about it
It's shocking by true: most people don't know about a child's critical first eye exam.
Did you know that most parents take better care of their own eyes than their kids' eyes?
Convergence insufficiency symptoms - doctors need to pay attention to performance related symptoms such as reading performance, attention and ADHD-like symptoms
New research on the connection between convergence insufficiency and ADHD
Is your child smart in everything but school?
Vision therapy for attention skills greatly improves reading performance
How to choose a children's optometrist - tips from a pediatric optometrist
Sarah's story - How life threatening diseases can lurk in a child's eyes - take them to the optometrist - its free for goodness sake!
Visual function development: behaviors to watch out for in your children
Orthokeratology is shown to be safe for correcting myopia in children
Accommodative insufficiency is a common children's eye disorder that causes reading and other problems and is treated with vision therapy
The myopia epidemic: why its so dangerous