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March is National Save Your Vision Month


Vision disorders are the number one handicapping condition for children. Those with special needs (including ADHD, autism spectrum, twice-exceptional children as well as gifted learners) commonly have a host of vision problems that can directly contribute to their difficulties and uneven development. Yet, 86% of American children under the age of five have not had an eye examination by an eye doctor. Therefore it is important for all parents to read this article to see what you can do to help your child develop and maintain good vision to last a lifetime.


Help keep your child’s eyes safe and healthy

Encourage your child to consume dark green vegetables and vitamin-fortified milk. It’s not only good for strong bones, but good for healthy eyes too!

Be sure your child uses sunglasses with”100% UV protection” to keep harmful rays from the eyes. Proper sun wear is important for infants and toddlers, too. Special sunglasses are available for little ones that are safe, inexpensive, provide all the UV protection they need and wrap around their head so they don’t fall off while they are playing in the sun!

Keep harmful detergents away from your child so there is no chance of them getting in their eyes and don’t permit them to play with sharp toys or objects that a child could accidentally bump into.

For your young athletes, proper eyewear during sports is very important. Wearing safety goggles can protect their eyes from serious eye injuries. Baseball, ice hockey, racquet sports and soccer lead the list of sports that cause the most eye injuries in kids ages 5 to 12. Both the American Optometric Association’s Sport Vision Section, along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend the use of protective eye wear during sports.

Prevent eye strain by making sure that your child has a good light to read by. Natural light is best, but for nighttime reading, invest in a good reading lamp.

Monitor how much time your kid is spending on their iPads and make him follow the “20/20 rule.” When playing with computers or looking close for long periods of time, take a break for at least 20 seconds and look 20 feet away every 20 minutes. It’s not definitive that heavy computer use, texting or constant reading are contributing to the increase in nearsightedness we are seeing today, but experts certainly agree that over doing it on the computer can cause blurred vision or focusing problems.

How often should your children have an eye exam? 

Children should have their first exam between six to twelve months of age (see for more information). Routine annual examinations should then follow at age three and every year during the school years to ensure optimal visual acuity and visual skills necessary for success.

Children often don’t complain when they have trouble seeing.

Kids might mention when they have difficulty seeing the board, but they usually don’t tell others that they see double or that the print on the page is uncomfortable to look at. This is because they think that is how everyone else sees. Instead kids usually avoid the task, just seem bored or uninterested, and parents get frustrated with their behaviors.

What behaviors should parents be on the lookout for?

There are behaviors parents often attribute to other causes, such as being lazy or having ADD or Autism, but some of these behaviors may actually be signs of potential vision problems. Therefore it becomes critical that you are aware of some of the most obvious symptoms which indicate that a child could have a vision problem, including:

  • Short attention span with close work
  • Avoids close work
  • Poor eye contact
  • Quick to fatigue
  • Inability to listen and look at the same time            
  • Headaches
  • Rubs or pokes eyes
  • Has an eye turn
  • Covers one eye or turns or tilts head
  • Stares at lights, shiny or spinning objects
  • Confuses lefts and rights  
  • Prefers to be read to
  • Is clumsy or has poor balance or ball catching skills
  • Has difficulty going up or down stairs or is afraid of heights
  • Problems with tracking
  • Visual perceptual problems

If your child has any of these, he or she may have an undiagnosed vision problem that is interfering with not only their academic success, but how they interact with the world.

Where can parents go for help?

Not all eye doctors are comfortable examining children with special needs and not all eye doctors test all the visual skills that affect performance and behavior. Parents of special needs children and children that are not working at their potential should consider having a developmental vision exam to ensure that their child has all of their visual skills fully evaluated. To find a doctor who can provide your special need’s child with this type of vision care visit:

In honor of March being Save Your Vision Month, please also visit our website, where we have a wealth of information on vision:

Carole L. Hong OD, FCOVD, board certified in vision development, has been practicing in San Carlos for almost 20 years. She is an expert in children’s vision, vision and learning, and treatment of vision problems for those with autism spectrum disorders, other developmental disabilities, head injury and stroke. Dr. Hong practices with Drs. Kristina Stasko and Macson Lee, also developmental optometrists. They can be reached at (650) 593-1661 or email to:  In addition to our website, www.FamilyVisionCare.Org, more helpful information can be found and

This article previously appeared in Parenting on the Peninsula, March 2010.

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