EYE TO EYE with John Wallace
Under performance at school and poor vision - the facts
(originally published 29.04.04, The Oban Times)
I was having lunch the other day with Colin Pettinger, our paediatric optometrist and binocular vision specialist. Inevitably, the conversation got round to the seasonal increase in the numbers of teenagers we examine at this time of year every year. Colin asked me a very pertinent question. How did I study for exams? I wasn’t an exemplary pupil and like most of my peers there was a painful realisation as the date of the exams came ever closer that I really did need to do some serious revising with its resultant long nights of staring at text books trying desperately to cram in the essential information.
I was fortunate that I had regular eye examinations and up to date glasses and so did not find the dramatic increase in reading a problem. Colin pointed out that a great many children suffer in silence when they can’t see clearly as they don’t realise they have a vision problem. Mistakenly, most parents assume the “eye test” their child might have had from the school nurse is all that is required to ensure their offspring has good vision.
Colin told me some horrifying facts. Four in every ten children who under-perform at school have an undiagnosed (and therefore untreated) vision problem affecting their educational development. Most dyslexic children have never had an eye examination by a specialist optometrist such as himself. Well over half of dyslexics have binocular vision problems, which, if treated properly could significantly reduce their symptoms.
There is a myth that children’s eye-care is expensive. The NHS pays for your child’s eye examination and it provides a voucher towards the cost of any glasses required. Your child should be examined by an optometrist with a special interest in children’s vision at age three years and every two years thereafter until they leave school.
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