Your Child's Vision

Your child’s eyesight is one of their most precious senses. 95% of what a child learns is through their eyes. If a child has a problem with their eyesight, it can lead to learning and behavioural problems.

This website will give you a better understanding of how your child’s vision develops and what you need to know about keeping your child’s eyes healthy.

Visual Development

Birth to 6 months

At birth your baby can see very little. The development of the eye is not complete so your baby only has basic vision, being able to see light and dark, black and white. Baby likes to look at human faces, preferable Mum’s and black and white patterns as these are easy to see. At this stage it is normal for baby’s eyes to behave in strange ways, rolling around and un-coordinated.

Within the first 6 months changes occur in the baby’s eyes and visual system which mean that baby’s vision is developing very rapidly. By 6 weeks baby can see clearer, can track objects and eye movement is more co-ordinated. By about 2 months the ability to see colours develops and by 6 months baby the baby’s eyes has completed developing, it now just needs to mature.

6 months to 6 years

Your child’s eyes will develop as your child’s motor abilities develop. Baby can see more clearly but still can only see objects that are reasonably close to him or her. As baby starts to walk, baby’s visual world widens and becomes clearer. A child's eyes do not fully complete development until he age of about 7 or 8.

If your child has problems with his or her vision, it is really important to manage that problem before the age of 7. Up to the age of 7, because the visual system is still developing, sight threatening problems can be prevented.

This is particularly important during school going years because a child's world in school is learning up close, reading, drawing, playing. If your child cannot see close work properly, their ability to learn can be severely compromised.

Common Childhood Vision Problems

  • Hyperopia (Long-Sightedness): All children are long sighted but the muscles in their eyes allow them to overcome that and to be able to see up close. However if your child is more long sighted than normal, they will not be able to use these muscles to compensate for the weakness and their close "learning” vision will suffer.
  • Astigmatism: A certain amount of astigmatism is normal in small children and does not require correction However, if that amount of astigmatism is too high, this will cause visual problems for your child.
  • Myopia (Short-Sightedness): Small amounts of myopia are not a big problem for young children. However if a child cannot see well in the distance, they cannot see properly in school or play sports. Most children, who develop myopia, do so after the age of 7, but some can develop it earlier.
  • Amblyopia: This is what we commonly know as a lazy eye. Amblyopia occurs for many reasons, and it means the eye cannot see as well as it should. It is really important that a child with an amblyopic eye is picked up as early as possible and the reason for the amblyopia is treated. If this is done before the age of 7, the risk of the child’s eye having poor eyesight for life is significantly reduced.

Why is good vision important?

If your child is struggling to see or has problems with their vision, they will have problems learning, playing sports and it can affect their self-esteem. It is estimated that 25% of school going children have problems with their eye sight.

Visual skills are necessary for learning in school. The skills a child will use every day when they are learning are:

  • Visual Acuity: The ability to see clearly at all distances.
  • Focussing: The ability of the eyes to change focus from distance to near and back again quickly.
  • Tracking: Ability to follow a moving object (like a ball)
  • Teaming: The ability to use the two eyes together and to move the eyes at the same time.
  • Hand-Eye Co-Ordination: The ability to use the information sent to the brain by the eyes to direct the hands in performing activities.
  • Visual Perception: Organising images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas which the child can understand and remember.

Common signs of vision problems in a child

  • Complaining of not being able to see black / white board.
  • The eye turning in or out.
  • Holding things too close to the face.
  • Covering one eye during certain activities.
  • Frequent blinking or rubbing the eye.
  • Tilting the head to one side.
  • Avoiding close work or reading.
  • Poor attention span.
  • Difficulties in holding place when reading.
  • Difficulties in reading, remembering and learning.
  • Older children may complain of headaches or sore eyes.
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