What comes to mind when you think of a school nurse’s office?
We’re guessing your list probably includes vinyl recovery beds, jars full of wooden tongue depressors, and the big E eye chart. For over a century and a half, that big E chart (officially called the Snellen chart) has been an excellent diagnostic tool for identifying nearsightedness…but not much else. There are many other ways a child’s vision might not be working properly, which is why it’s so important for kids to get comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist!
The Link Between Vision and Learning
Being able to see clearly and perform visual tasks well is hugely important to a child’s education, social development, and even athletic performance. Up to 80% of learning is visual, with all those whiteboards and textbooks and writing assignments to look at, among many other things.
The Less Obvious Vision Problems
What does the Snellen eye chart miss? Basically any vision problem that isn’t nearsightedness. A comprehensive eye exam, on the other hand, will also test for farsightedness, astigmatism, color blindness, visual perception, hand-eye coordination, and important binocular vision skills like focusing, tracking, and teaming. Any of these problems can negatively impact learning if they go untreated.
When a Vision Problem Remains Undiagnosed
Unlike adults, children don’t have the vocabulary or understanding to recognize what “good eyesight” is supposed to be like. They only have their own experience to go off of, so if it hurts to focus on close-up work for long, they probably won’t know why. They might believe they’re not smart enough for school. They might, in fact, display a lot of the symptoms common in learning disorders, and without a comprehensive eye exam, there’s a good chance they’ll be misdiagnosed with one.
Recognize the Symptoms of Eye Problems
Some eye problems are easy to spot, such as an eye that points the wrong direction. Other symptoms are more subtle, including reading comprehension problems, difficulty completing schoolwork, a short attention span (particularly for close-up tasks), frequent headaches, a habit of covering one eye, frequent blinking and eye rubbing, and fidgeting.