Is Vision on your Back-to-School Checklist?

Date Posted : July 27, 2018

It’s the second half of summer already. Mailboxes are stuffed with back-to-school mailers, and tempting displays of school supplies line the aisles of our favorite stores. There are still weeks of summer left, but the smell of pencil shavings is in the air.

While you encourage your children to complete their summer reading lists and start assessing which back-to-school sales to shop, take a moment to consider your child’s vision.

Are you concerned about your child’s vision? Does your family have a history of myopia/nearsightedness (difficulty seeing distant objects clearly)? Have you had a nagging thought that your child’s ability to do well in school or sports is being hampered by … something?

Myopia is a big challenge in school-aged children as it can impact their ability to see the board and teacher instructions, and can make sports or even just tossing a ball with friends challenging. Myopia tends to progressively worsen, and is a concern because it can lead to other eye diseases. Getting a handle on eyesight and vision is an important element in overall health and wellness.

There are several things that can be done to help slow myopia progression (spoiler alert: they pretty much all start with a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist!)

One great thing you can do in the summer is encourage your children to get as much outside activity as possible, even if their chosen outside activity is reading. Researchers aren’t sure whether it’s the beneficial effects of the wavelengths of natural light, the longer distances we can see when outdoors, or some combination of these and other factors, but evidence points to outdoor time as being protective against myopia onset.

Another thing you can do is schedule your child’s annual eye exam. During a comprehensive eye exam, Dr. Spokas can evaluate your child and look for early signs of myopia, which can give you an opportunity to consider treatment options before myopia progresses. For children who already wear glasses, we have a great treatment option called orthokeratology that can significantly slow down myopia progression and even eliminate the need for glasses.

In the meantime, as your child works to complete summer reading lists or math packets, you can encourage healthy eye habits. Have your child place a bookmark five or ten pages ahead when reading, and use the bookmark as a signal to take a vision break and look at something far away for a few minutes, or get up and go outside. Take advantage of good weather and do family adventures away from the close work of online time or video games. Geocaching, walks and bike rides, beanbag toss matches can be fun for people of all ages. When doing close work, set timers to remind yourself or your child to take frequent breaks. Parents can set good examples by talking about the need to take a break for their eyes, then going for a quick walk before diving back into a project or screen-based activity.

The children are watching. Let’s help them see clearly and set good habits.