Even kids with 20/20 eyesight can have vision problems at school, optometrist says
When it comes to children’s vision, optometrist Ashley Reddell says, it’s not all about those two numbers separated by a slash.
Even if a child’s eyesight is 20/20, his or her performance in school might be hampered by vision problems, Reddell said at a Basehor Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday.
Children’s vision, not eyesight, is the specialty of Reddell, who works for the Vision Development Center in Leavenworth.
What’s the difference? Vision has less to do with a person’s eyeballs and more to do with their connection with the brain, she said.
“Vision is what the brain is doing with the information once it goes in,” said Reddell, who also gives presentations in schools, including in Basehor-Linwood.
Children with vision problems might have difficulty with keeping both eyes working together, changing focus from one object to another, following moving objects with their eyes or distinguishing between different letters with similar shapes, she said.
Such problems can make typical classroom tasks — reading a book or copying words from a board at the front of the class — seem excruciating, Reddell said.
“They think, why would my friend want to read ‘Harry Potter’? That sounds like torture to me,” Reddell said.
Vision difficulties often go unnoticed during regular eye screenings, and they can be tough for kids to recognize or describe, Reddell said.
For instance, a child having problems with eye teaming — or the ability to use both eyes together — might experience double vision while reading. But a child may not understand what “seeing double” looks like. If an optometrist shows a child an animation of words on a page splitting into two, though, the child might be able to say that’s what it looks like when he tries to read, Reddell said.
That difficulty in identifying the problem can sometimes cause parents to experience “mom guilt,” she said.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea! They didn’t complain about it,’ ” Reddell said.
Parents or teachers can sometimes see evidence of vision difficulties in children’s behavior, she said. A child struggling with eye teaming might often cover one eye while reading, and one having difficulty with eye focus might report that her vision is blurry even if she has 20/20 eyesight.
A survey, often given to both parents and teachers, is the best way to determine if a child has vision difficulties that are interfering with learning, Reddell said. She handed out to chamber members a sample survey that asks how often certain behaviors occur, ranging from reading below grade level or taking too long with homework to experiencing headaches or itchy and watery eyes.
Reddell said she often refers parents to the website covd.org, where they can find optometrists who can treat vision problems. In addition, the Vision Development Center at 2301 10th Ave. in Leavenworth, where she works, offers free parent workshops on the subject on the second Monday of each month. Parents can call (913) 682-3937 to reserve a spot.
Reddell also told Chamber members that the optometrists in her office had considered opening a branch in Basehor someday, though that would likely occur some time from now.