Kids' Vision and Learning

Back-to-School Eye Exams

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It's that time again...back to school for another year of learning. Eye doctors usually see a surge in children's and teen's eye examinations during September and October. Some parents get their kids in for eye exams before school starts. Others come in because they have undergone vision screening testing by school nurses and pediatricians and have discovered that their vision is not quite what it should be.

The ability to see clearly and comfortably can directly impact a child's performance both in and out of the classroom.

Changes in Vision

Vision changes sometimes occur so slowly that children don’t even realize them. However, about eighty percent of what a child learns in school is acquired through vision, so optimal vision is extremely important in the learning process.

Kids' Eye Exams

Comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist are important because vision screenings only really check to see how well you see at a distance. Some vision problems can go undetected. Most people don’t realize the problems vision problems can cause for children, especially at school.

In addition to vision, eye doctors check the following during a child's eye exam:

  • Change in focusing: Clear vision is important, but even more important is how fast our eyes can quickly and accurately change focus from distance to near. In a classroom setting, children are looking at close reading material, computerized chalk boards, and sometimes even tablets and laptops. It is important to be able to quickly change focus.
  • Visual tracking: Visual tracking involves how our eyes track things we are looking at like moving the eyes along a printed page when reading or following a moving object in the classroom.
  • Eye hand coordination: Eye hand coordination is a visual milestone that some children achieve earlier than others. It involves how well our motor and nervous system communicate with each other
  • Visual perception: Visual perception involves the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words, and ideas and to understand and remember what is read. This also involves how well children see when letters and paragraphs are crowded very close to each other.

Children's Eye Health

In addition to vision and binocular vision disorders, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will also check your child’s eye health. Typically, special medicational eye drops will be instilled into their eyes to temporarily paralyze the focusing muscle inside the eye and widen the pupil to evaluate internal structures of the eyes.

Signs of Vision Problems

Most of us don't think that classroom and learning disabilities can be caused by vision problems. But according to the American Optometric Association, one in four students in kindergarten through sixth grade has some type of undiagnosed vision problem that can interfere with their ability to perform in the classroom.

Signs your child may be experiencing a vision problem:

  • Squinting
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Frontal headaches
  • Holding reading materials too close or too far away
  • Losing place while reading
  • Avoiding close work
  • Turning or tilting head
  • Making frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • Using finger to keep place when reading 
  • Squinting while reading or watching television
  • Exhibiting lack of attention or fatigue during school

What You Should Know

We all want our children to do well in school but undiagnosed vision problems can have a profound effect on a child's entire life. Sometimes a child may begin to have problems with visual related tasks and instead of complaining about blurred vision, they act out, goof around or become troublemakers. In reality these kids are simply frustrated and do not know how to communicate to their teachers and parents that they are having trouble reading. These children tend to do poorly in school and may end up getting into trouble later in life.

If you haven’t done so already, schedule your child’s eye examination today. A simple vision problem could be standing in the way of your child achieving educational excellence. Good, clear vision will make school and learning a much more enjoyable experience.


Scheiman, Mitchell. Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline, Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination. American Optometric Association, 2002.

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