We’ve heard it before; an undetected vision, poor vision or eye health problem can affect a child’s academic performance. However, you might not have heard it can also affect a child’s behaviour and social skills.
“Most parents and guardians aren’t aware that an undiagnosed vision problem goes beyond poor academic performance,” says optometrist and member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, Dr. Rajvinder Pabla.
In fact, poor vision can lead to reduced social interaction because of the inability to see properly.
A child may shy away or be excluded from playing team sports since their vision problem is affecting their hand-eye coordination. They may also avoid watching the latest 3D movie with their friends because they have reduced depth perception and can’t enjoy the movie the way their friends can.
“It’s unfortunate. They could be interacting with their peers and developing socially, but because they have an undetected vision problem they avoid certain social activities or are excluded from them,” says Dr. Pabla.
Along with social interactions, an undetected vision problem can affect a child’s behaviour in the classroom.
Dr. Pabla explains, a child who is hyperopic (farsighted) may have problems reading and focusing on their textbooks. If their hyperopia continues to go undiagnosed, they may try avoiding their work and in the process become disruptive out of frustration.
“Too often, some children are labelled as the ‘problem’ or ‘bad’ child when in fact their behaviour stems from an undiagnosed vision problem,” says Dr. Pabla. “Most of these kids don’t complain about their vision because they either have a hard time articulating their vision problem or think everyone sees like them.”
That is why a comprehensive eye exam is critical to a child’s overall development. Eye exams conducted by an optometrist can detect, diagnose and treat eye conditions that may be the root cause of a child’s behaviour or reclusive tendencies.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends children start receiving comprehensive eye exams at 6 months, before starting kindergarten and every year thereafter.
“A child’s eye health status can change yearly, so as parents and guardians, we have to make sure our children go on a yearly basis once they start school. Even if they are fine one year, with growth, their prescription can change as well as the status of their binocular vision – how the two eyes work together,” says Dr. Pabla.
An undetected vision or eye health problem may be holding your child back socially and interfering with their behaviour. An optometrist can help remove the vision-related barriers that may be hindering your child from living a full and enriched life.