Vision is more complicated than whether or not your child needs glasses. Children may have difficulty jumping their eyes from word to word while reading, following a moving object with their eyes, or perceiving what they are seeing. There are some signs of vision problems that parents can look for in a child:
- Squinting or rubbing his or her eyes
- has a short attention span
- avoids reading, writing, and or other fine motor activities
- frequently complains of headaches
- tilts his or her head to one side while reading or writing
- messy handwriting
- difficulty remembering what he or she read
- has difficulty with sports, may seem clumsy
It is always the goal of occupational therapy to promote independence with daily occupations of living. For children, the most important occupations of living are play, self care, and school skills. When a child is having trouble seeing he or she may have trouble with play, self care, and especially school skills. This is when occupational therapy can help! Occupational therapists work with children to improve vision as well as learn and use strategies to work around vision issues.
There are many different types of vision impairments that children may be struggling with. The impairment may be severe as legal blindness or as simple as sensitivity to bright lights. Occupational therapists gather information about your child’s vision through a few different means. You may have already taken your child to a developmental optometrist. These types of optometrists specialize in rehabilitation of vision issues using lenses and/or exercises. Occupational therapists and developmental optometrists often work together. The developmental optometrist has more sophisticated testing equipment for vision and can share his/her findings with the occupational therapist. Occupational therapists can seek out special training in screening for eye movement skills such as near-point focus, far-point focus, shifting focus between near and far points, smooth eye movements to track a moving object, eye jump movements needed for reading, and peripheral vision. Occupational therapists can also evaluate how a child is perceiving vision. These visual perceptual skills include visual closure, visual discrimination, visual memory, and figure-ground. Finally, the occupational therapist can evaluate how children use their eyes and hands together to perform everyday activities such as writing, buttoning, and cutting.
After an occupational therapist has a clear picture on how a child is seeing a treatment plan can be formed. This treatment plan will most likely include vision exercises to improve eye movement skills that will be done in with the occupational therapist and as homework. Visual skills can be worked on through fun activities such as dot-to-dots, mazes, bean bag toss, and puzzles. Movement and vision are closely related so occupational therapy will include many activities that require eye-hand coordination while the child is performing challenging activities such as jumping on a trampoline or swinging from a trapeze bar. Occupational therapy may also address sensory sensitivities to light and visual clutter through a sensory integration program.
Occupational therapists can also suggest many strategies to try to improve vision; especially in the school setting. Examples of these strategies include using lower watt bulbs in the lamps at home, using a cut-out book mark when reading, using colored overlays to improve contrast and highlight text, writing on a slant board instead of a flat desk top, and writing on raised-line paper.
If you have concerns about your child’s vision please contact Sierra Therapy Group and speak with one of our occupational therapists. We would love to work with you!