Children experiencing problems with reading could be experiencing problems with their eyes. Problems with vision can affect reading, learning and overall performance at school. In South Africa, poor vision is impacting young people. A Cape Town University study shows that some 450 000 South African youths have problems with their vision, with visual impairment at 4%1 ¬ the main problem affecting their general health and functioning.

“Poor vision could be thwarting your child’s reading abilities. Several studies link uncorrected vision problems with poor levels of literacy, but it goes beyond a stifled ability to read. Children who battle to see properly can also suffer in other areas such as on the sports field as well as emotionally,” says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision.

“Young children may not even realise that they are struggling to see clearly, because it is how they have always seen the world and know no different. If your child’s reading abilities or performance levels at school are poor, it is well worth having their eyes checked as part of your investigation into the reasons why,” he adds.
Naude recommends that children have an eye exam by the age of three and again just before they start primary school. School-aged children should have their eyes checked every two years if they have no visual issues.

Signs to look out for

Signs that could indicate vision issues in a child; include sitting to close to the TV, using a finger to guide their eyes while reading, complaining of sore eyes or headaches, difficulty concentrating, and introverted behaviour, amongst others.

He goes on to say that young people spend a vast amount of time on electronic devices. Tablets and mobile phones are held close to the face, placing strain on developing eyes.

“We increasingly see Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, in children and teens because of prolonged exposure to computer screens and other devices. Screens emit blue light which causes damage to the back of the eye and increases the risk of degeneration and permanent vision loss later in life,” says Naude.
“Young people who spend a lot of time looking at screens can suffer from the symptoms of digital eye strain. This includes headaches, sore and tired eyes, fatigue, vision fluctuation and reduced concentration.

These too can impact reading and school performance, so it is important to have your child’s eyes re-checked if they are showing any of these signs,” he adds.

Accommodative support lenses

A solution for young people who spend a lot of time looking at screens is accommodative support lenses. These are designed to relax the eyes when using a screen for long periods and then focussing on objects in the distance. Accommodative support lenses, in combination with blue light, support young eyes and reduce digital eyestrain and its associated symptoms.

“Even if your child already wears glasses and appears to be suffering from digital eye strain, it is a good idea to have their eyes checked. This will help to make sure that the prescription is still appropriate,” advises Naude.

He concludes that parents should look for signs that their children are struggling to see to prevent other underlying issues. With an early diagnosis, the most common refractive errors can be corrected to avoid strain and further damage to their developing eyes.

This article was published in partnership with Media Xpose.

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