Children’s Vision and the Milestones of Development
Vision is arguably the most important of the five senses. It plays a crucial role throughout childhood and beyond. In fact, experts say 80 percent of what children learn in school is presented visually.
From infancy on, there are important milestones in your child's vision development. During the first several months of life, a baby can only focus on objects up close. Those objects will be seen in high contrast colors only, such as black, white and red. By 6 months of age, your child's visual acuity is much sharper, with more accurate color vision and better eye movement and hand-eye coordination skills.
Vision doesn't just happen. A child's brain actually learns how to use eyes to see, just like it learns how to use legs to walk or a mouth to form words. The longer a child's vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more the brain learns to accommodate the vision problem.
From ages 2-5, a child will be fine-tuning the visual abilities gained during infancy and developing new ones. Stacking blocks, rolling a ball back and forth, coloring, drawing, and cutting all help improve important visual skills. Preschoolers depend on their vision to learn tasks that will prepare them for school. This is the time when parents need to be alert for the presence of vision problems like a crossed eye or lazy eye. Particularly if lazy eye is detected early in life and promptly treated, reduced vision can be avoided. If left untreated, lazy eye can cause severe visual disability in the affected eye, including legal blindness.
The Importance of a Comprehensive Children’s Eye Exam
It is important to know that a vision screening by a child's pediatrician or at his or her preschool is not the same as a comprehensive eye and vision examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Vision screenings are a limited process and can't be used to diagnose an eye or vision problem, but rather may indicate a potential need for further evaluation. They may miss as many as 60% of children with vision problems. Even if a vision screening does not identify a possible vision problem, a child may still have one. Many preschool vision screenings only assess one or two areas of vision. They may not evaluate how well the child can focus his or her eyes or how well the eyes work together. Generally color vision, which is important to the use of color coded learning materials, is not tested.
A comprehensive eye examination is so important for children. Early detection and treatment provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems, so your child can learn to see clearly. Your young child should have a thorough eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to make sure his or her vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your optometrist or ophthalmologist can prescribe treatment, including eyewear and/or vision therapy, to correct a vision development problem. Making sure that your child’s vision develops properly will ensure that they will have one of the best possible tools to learn successfully.