Vision is a dominant function in the growth, development and performance of children. 80% of what children learn is acquired through visual processing. This leads to a lot of parents, especially those who have small babies, asking: does my child have good vision? As a paediatric ophthalmologist, this is one of the most common questions I hear.
While there is no single, standard answer, it helps to understand a little bit about common eye related issues, especially amongst kids. The more we know, the easier we are to decide when is the right time to visit a doctor.
Eye related issues amongst children can strike across various age groups. Younger children are especially at risk, since they are usually at a pre-verbal stage making it very difficult for them to communicate, thus unable to complain if they are suffering abnormal vision. What is equally concerning is that kids in this age group typically never complain as they think what they see is completely normal.
A lot of parents mistakenly think that there is no way to figure out if their child, be it an infant or toddler, has vision problems. In fact, there are a couple of signs and symptoms you can look out for which may indicate that your child is having difficulty seeing. Note that this might not always mean that your child needs glasses.
To be assured of your child’s vision, he or she would need a comprehensive, painless eye examination which includes visual acuity testing, cycloplegic refraction, eye motility test and complete eye examination by a licensed medical professional.
Please bring them to see a medical professional urgently if your child’s eyes start to show these abnormalities:
There are some situations where there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary in the physical appearance of your child’s eyes. However, your child might display some peculiar behaviour in their daily activities, while reading, watching TV or just playing. They are trying to compensate for their difficulties in focusing on an image they are seeing. If the list of behaviours below seems to be a normal occurrence in your child, it is advisable to bring your child to an ophthalmologist for further check-up.
“My child will tell me if he can’t see well.”
If your child did not exhibit any of the symptoms above, it is encouraged to send them for a visual screening after they turn 4. The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MMH) also has a standardized eye screening program for children available in your local hospital.
“Most young children don’t always know they see differently than other children. They have nothing to compare with. Some even adapt abnormal posture for them to see the image clearly.”
Dr Norazah Abdul Rahman is Consultant Ophthalmologist with over 17 years’ experience in public and private care, specialising in Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. She is currently practicing in Ara Damansara Medical Centre.