As children, we play, learn and explore. We typically don’t do this alone, as these tasks are done with other friends or classmates. And much like adults comparing their lifestyles with others on social media, magazines or the neighbor down the street; children compare their abilities with others too. It is simply human nature. Unlike adults, children are probably not comparing what job they have or how many vacations they go on. They are more likely comparing things they are currently experiencing, like their ability to read in school or how well they can play kickball. But what if I told you a child’s vision could affect their self-perception. And there is one condition, in particular, that can significantly affect the way a child perceives themselves – that condition is known as Amblyopia.
Life With Amblyopia/Lazy Eye
When a child has amblyopia (lazy eye), they may often appear to have no apparent complaints about their vision. That’s because with amblyopia their vision loss typically occurs only in one eye, whereas the fellow eye can see clearly, usually 20/20. Therefore when a child with amblyopia has no visual complaints but experiences frustration in specific everyday tasks, it often may be assumed to be a behavioral issue or personality trait. For example, those with amblyopia have poor or no depth perception, therefore, activities that rely on good depth perception, like playing sports, are usually difficult for these children. Amblyopia is known to affect reading speed and fluency, and therefore, those children with amblyopia may avoid reading compared to their peers. In the classroom, they may be inattentive and try to spend their time on other tasks. On the playground, they may struggle to catch a ball and avoid sports. At home, they may be clumsy or accident-prone. And with all of these aspects in normal childhood experiences working against them, these children are often left feeling frustrated, depressed or perceive themselves negatively.
Without knowing what amblyopia is, many parents may think their child has attention or behavioral problems. Or maybe think these behaviors are a phase the child will grow out of. But the truth is, amblyopia doesn’t go away on its own. It is often a disguised vision condition until it is picked up in a comprehensive eye health and vision evaluation. Why? Because amblyopia is a neuro-developmental vision problem that occurs during infancy and early childhood. Children with this condition never know what good vision is like and have no reference to explain a problem. They simply and unconsciously believe that everyone sees the world as they do.
So if a child has amblyopia, what can we do?
New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – Ophthalmology, shows that children with amblyopia report significantly lower self-perception when it comes to reading, academics, and sports. And when left untreated, amblyopia has a significant effect on a child’s psychosocial functioning.
When it comes to treating amblyopia, while the basic model of care has been occlusion therapy (patching). New research and clinical experience show a comprehensive treatment approach that includes proper corrective lenses, office-based binocular vision therapy paired with at-home binocular vision activities that facilitate depth perception, eye-hand coordination, and reading fluency is the best approach.
So to avoid these problems, a child should have a comprehensive eye health and vision evaluation from their family eye doctor and when identified seek treatment from a developmental optometrist who provides, beyond patching, a model of care that includes office-based binocular vision therapy. The same goes for adults with amblyopia – it’s never too late.
When a child can gain good binocular vision, with depth perception, visual tracking speed, and accuracy for reading, visual processing and eye-hand coordination they will gain the ability to apply themselves in ways they never knew they could. This often results in a better sense of accomplishment as self-esteem blossoms. The importance of having good visual function in a child’s life translates beyond just what the eye can see!
Director of Public and Professional Communications
Wow Vision Therapy
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