Child’s eye health and it’s influence on development

Ever wondered how are we able to see things…???

The visual ability is a complex interaction between light, eyes, and brain. Light reflected from the objects enters the eye through the cornea, which resembles a window at front of the eye. Pupil controls the amount of light entering the eye which is surrounded by colored part of the eye – Iris. The retina converts this light into signals and sends it to the information processing center – Brain. Also, retina which is made up of rods and cones (light sensors) is the one that perceives different frequencies of light which is responsible for our color vision… Isn’t it amazing..!!! Only if RETINA was an individual I would tell that person how thankful I’m for letting me experience such wonderful colors of nature…!!!

So everything we witness “out there” is merely the mental image of outside reality.

Infants are born with a complete visual system, but they must learn how to see just like how they learn to walk or talk. Most of the child’s visual ability develops throughout the first year of life and continues to develop in childhood. Healthy eyes and good vision is vital in how children learn to see.

Some of the important visual milestones are:

* Ability to focus

* Object and face recognition

* Eye coordination and tracking

* Depth (3D) perception

* Color vision.

How does a child’s vision influence learning?

Vision is more than just seeing clearly or having a 20/20 eyesight. It is also the ability to understand and respond to what is seen. 80% of our learning happens through vision. Processing visual information and various tasks require the activation of each part of the brain.

Eye impairments (problems)

Eye and vision impairments (problems) in infants/children can cause :

* Developmental delays

* Poor hand-eye coordination

* Poor social interaction

* Hinder academic performance

* Affect recreational activities etc.

Kids and adults both need a comprehensive eye examination. It is often recommended that infants should get their first eye exam done at 6 months, additional checkups should be done at 3 and at around 5-6 years. School-age children should get eye exams done every 2 years even if no corrective visual measures are required.

Visiting your eye doctor can help diagnose potential eye condition or disease and make the best decision about how to correct or manage it.

Common refractive errors include:

* Nearsightedness

* Farsightedness

* Astigmatism

Some serious eye impairments include:

* Strabismus (misalignment of eyes)

* Amblyopia (lazy eye)

* Ptosis (drooping of the eyelid)

* Colorblindness

* Poor depth (3D) perception

* Double vision

Having experience in treating kids with neurological affection who also have vision problems; correction of their vision problems did significantly improve their development and interaction with surrounding. Hence, regular eye check-ups should be done to notice changes in your child’s vision.

However if your child is exhibiting any of the following behaviors it’s best to schedule an appointment with an eye specialist:

* Struggling to concentrate and pay attention

* Complaining of eyes hurting, headaches or double vision

* Frequently rubbing eyes or uncontrollable blinking

* Tilting or turning head to look at objects

* Holding objects or reading material too close to face.

* Disinterest in reading or looking at objects from a distance

* Wandering eyes

* Closing one eye to watch TV or read

* Excessive eye discomfort while using any digital device.

Is your child spending more time on mobile devices and computer screens more than ever before…? The amount of screen time per day has been associated with developmental outcomes, obesity, poor sleep quality, and digital eye strain. The best possible way to deal with the effects of screens is to set some good habits not only for children but also for adults.

* Alternate reading an e-book with a real book

* Following the 20-20-20 rule i.e. every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

* Adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen.

* Use good posture when using a screen. Poor posture can contribute to muscle tightness and headaches associated with eye strain.

* Encourage your child to hold digital media at an ideal distance of 18 to 24 inches.

* Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

* Establish media-free times each day.

* Reduce blue light (from digital devices) exposure by wearing blue light filtering lenses. Blue light may also affect your body’s sleep/wake cycle so avoid using screens one to two hours before bedtime or use nighttime settings.

Some activities to sharpen your child’s visual skills:

* Painting/drawing

* Pegboards, puzzles, building blocks, and similar games for eye-hand coordination.

* Making jewelry/stringing beads

* Playing outdoors preferably playgrounds

* Playing catch and throw with the ball.

Also adding a few tips on taking measures to protect eyes:

* Wearing protective eye gear while participating in recreational activities/sports.

* Ensure toys are age-appropriate, making sure for sharp/protruding parts.

* Wearing sunglasses that have 99-100% UVA and UVB protection when outside.

* Promoting good eye health through an appropriate diet.

Children’s eye health plays an important role in overall health and development. Hence taking an eye exam may be the key to unlocking your child’s full potential.

Authored by-
Dr Charmi Parmar
Consultant Neurophysiotherapist

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