Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teacher, teacher! I'm squinting and I still can't see the blackboard...

Dear students (and their parents),

Where, oh where, did the summertime go?

As the summer comes to an end, it approaches the time of year where kids are both nervous and excited to head back to school. Children reconnect with classmates they may not have seen over the summer, as well as meet new teachers and other new students. Parents are busy making sure their kids are well-prepared, having the clothes, backpack, rulers, pencils, calculators and packed lunches all lined up and ready to go.

August is typically a busy month at an eye doctor's office. Teenagers and young adults make sure they get their eyes checked out to get their updated contact lens supply before heading off to college. Kids get new frames to replace the ones battered over the summer during soccer games, or to replace the ones lost during the family vacation.

The first couple of weeks in September is typically slow at an eye doctor's office. Parent's are so relieved that they survived the summer, they just need to chill for a bit. Students are still re-learning how an alarm clock works and trying to get to their bus stop on time, as well as adjusting to their school environment. Getting the eyes checked are the last thing on the list, especially since those two weeks include the Labor Day weekend--a last chance at a mini-vacation before things really start picking up.

However, when the kids finally start getting over the lazy hangover of summer and make an attempt to read the blackboard (or the whiteboard), some children realize that it's a little more difficulty to read what the teacher is writing...and it's not the messy handwriting, either.

A child's vision is dynamic. As a child grows, the vision usually changes as well. There is a time, usually in the late teens, when the vision changes tend to stabilize somewhat. However, until that point in time, the vision can worsen with in a year, in as little as 6 months...and maybe even 3 months, the length of a summer vacation.

It's important for parents, teachers and the student themselves to recognize when the vision begins to get worse. Squinting, frontal headaches and eyestrain are signs that the vision may not be optimal, and that a visit to the eye doctor may be what's needed to get back to seeing 20/20.

Even if these changes aren't noticed immediately, school vision screenings usually administered by school nurses can help identify students who may not "pass" the Snellen eye chart at distance or near. If a student's vision is suspect, that child is usually given a form from the school nurse to give to the student's parents to have the child's eyes checked by an eye doctor sooner than later.

Having a child see perfectly at distance and near allows for better school performance. If a student can't see what's written on the board or in a book, learning and comprehension can be compromised. Also, homework may take longer than it's supposed to if a child can't see the problems they're supposed to solve. Seeing more clearly also helps with sports vision performance as well.

So students (and their parents), make sure to get your vision and your ocular health checked out at the start of the school year, to make sure that your eyes aren't straining more than they should (they shouldn't strain at all) and that you're eyes are in tip-top shape. If you wait, that's okay too. But make sure you can tell a "T" from an "F" on those True-False tests...

Dr. Weaver


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