Health & Family

Problems in school? Check kids' eyes

Is your child already struggling to pay attention in school? Don't jump to Ritalin for the answer. Check out his eyes, ears and teeth for possible trouble spots.

One Davidson mother of a first-grader has been pleased that several months of eye exercises with a vision therapist have helped her son focus better in school this year.

“Parenting is very educational,” the mother says, as there's always something new to learn to care for your child. “Who even knew there was such a thing as vision therapy?”

Young kids generally don't complain about their eyes, but parents need to be aware of symptoms that may indicate a vision problem even though a child may have 20/20 vision. The American Optometric Association says be concerned if your child often:

Loses his or her place while reading or uses his finger to maintain place when reading.

Avoids close work.

Holds reading material closer than normal.

Tends to rub his eyes; has headaches.

Turns or tilts head to use one eye only.

Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing.

Has difficulty with hand-eye-body coordination when throwing a ball or riding a bike.

The eye association recommends that children receive comprehensive eye exams – beyond a brief screening – beginning at 6 months, 3 years and again when a child enters school.

A simple vision screening in school could miss what some parents have realized:

Their underachieving children cannot keep written text in focus. Their eyes tire easily, so they look up often from what they're reading.

Similarly, some kids may pass an initial hearing screening but still be at risk for hearing loss that fluctuates, gets worse or is acquired later in development, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.