A child’s eyesight continues to develop up to the age of eight and a number of eyecare issues can be corrected by an optician if detected before this time.

"Opticians know of children misdiagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD or learning difficulties."

The tell-tale signs that something is amiss with your child’s vision include excessive eye rubbing, watery eyes, sitting very close to the television or books, clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination. If your child tries to avoid reading or drawing, closes one eye when reading or concentrating, or complains of blurred or double vision or unexplained headaches, then a visit to the optician is also in order.

 

Common consequences and misdiagnoses

 

Untreated visual problems can make the child less likely to do well at school, and can lead to problems making friends. Opticians know of children misdiagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD or learning difficulties when in fact the child just needs glasses.

Many parents believe that their child’s sight will be checked at school, paid for by local authority funding, or delivered as part of the Specsavers Screening for Schools programme which supplies schools with a free SchoolScreener EZ test. Designed to be operated by teachers, other school staff or volunteers, this test is being made available in all 27,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK and is based on software already used as part of the school entry screening programme. Parents with children who fail the test will receive a letter to help them make informed decisions about their child’s eyes.

 

Less than a third of schools provide screening

 

However, professional body, the College of Optometrists, warns parents not just to assume their child’s eye health is being looked after: a College survey found that fewer than a third of local authorities in England provide vision screening for children. And when they do, children are screened only for conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint) and there is little support for problems with focus such as long-sightedness or astigmatism (blurred vision).

"1.6 million school-aged children in the UK have an undiagnosed vision problem."  

Opticians recommend that all children should have regular eye tests from the age of three or four years old. This will provide parents and children with a full eye examination, and it will detect vision problems before they have a significant impact on children’s learning. All children are entitled to an NHS-funded sight test when clinically necessary.

By taking their child to an optician from an early age, parents will also be building good eye health habits that can last into adulthood.