• Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

    Eye Care

    September 11, 2018

    As children return to school, parents naturally consider how to help their children learn and succeed. Good vision and eye health are key to students’ ability to do well in the classroom, on the playground, in sports, and when studying at home. September is Children’s Eye Health and Safety month, and Bassett ophthalmologist Dr. Laura Kilty encourages all families to make sure students receive vision screening and learn eye health and safety practices. Also, it’s important for parents of children with learning disabilities to know how vision does---and does not---play a role. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend vision screening in all children at the 3 year old well child check up.

    The first hint that Quinn Kirby had a serious—but correctable—vision problem was during a preliminary screening at her pediatrician’s office. Quinn, a bright, lively little girl who was four at the time, couldn’t name the pictures or letters, which frustrated her, since she knew her alphabet. The pediatrician and Quinn’s mom, Kris, agreed on sending Quinn to a pediatric ophthalmologist, for a comprehensive eye exam.

    The exam determined that Quinn’s vision was 20/30 in her right eye and 8/200 in the left, compared with 20/20 normal vision. Her stronger eye was doing most of the work, and her other eye was becoming weaker as a result, a condition called amblyopia. Also, Quinn’s weaker eye was slightly turned inward (one variation of a condition called strabismus), but this was too subtle to be noticed, except in an exam.

    Her parents take excellent care of their kids’ health, and so were stunned by the news. Their eye doctor asked them not to blame themselves, as such vision problems are nearly impossible to detect–especially in young children–except through vision screening by a school nurse, pediatrician, or other qualified health provider.

    Quinn's story illustrates how important vision screening and proper treatment can make a big difference to a child's future. Vision screening is indicated at an early age so that problems can be promptly treated while the visual system is developing. Some of these vision problems cannot be fixed at a later age. This is why early detection and treatment is so important.

    Quinn's treatment included glasses–at first with very thick lenses–but Kris says Quinn liked choosing the pink and purple frames and didn’t mind wearing them. The eye patch treatment was a different story: after three months of persuasion, Quinn agreed to wear the patch over her stronger eye for 2 hours daily, so that her weaker eye took on the work of seeing and developed more normally. Getting children to cooperate with patching can be challenging for parents according to Dr. Kilty. So parents are encouraged to be creative in gaining cooperation such as wearing an eye patch themselves.

    Parents may have questions on how the eyes and vision interact with learning disabilities in children. Learning disabilities result from the brain's misinterpretation of images received and relayed by the eyes, rather than from structural or functional eye problems. That’s why learning disabilities are not treatable by eye exercises or vision therapy. If learning disabilities are suspected, students need testing, followed as appropriate by in-depth neurological exams and treatment. And whether or not learning disabilities are suspected, all students need vision screening to check eye health and visual acuity.

     This article is reprinted with the permission of AAPOS, of which Dr. Kilty is a member.