Importance of Vision in Childhood Development
Up to the age of 12, children obtain 80% of their knowledge through visual learning.1 This includes activities like reading, writing, viewing diagrams, films and images, and generally interacting with their surroundings. According the American Optometric Association, vision conditions are associated with a child’s inability to master vital skills for the classroom, such as spatial mathematics concepts, reading comprehension, and spelling.2
In addition to skills needed for school and learning, development of athletic and kinesthetic skills, such as proper hand-eye coordination, is vital to a child’s overall long-term development. Vision even plays a large role in social development, as many children report experiencing a lack of direction, a sense of not belonging, insecurity or inferiority prior to a diagnosis and proper treatment of a vision condition.3
Unfortunately, because children have nothing to compare their own vision to, a child cannot know the quality of their own vision, and thus are unable tell a parent or teacher if something is wrong. Children whose vision conditions have been treated often tell their parents, teachers and doctors that they did not know they were supposed to be able to see the details of leaves on trees or make out faces from a distance.
The American Optometric Association states that every child needs the vision skills listed below for effective learning. Over-exertion in attempt to properly utilize any of these visual skills may lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems, further affecting a child’s development and ability to learn.
Vision Skills Needed for Effective Learning
- Visual acuity — A child’s ability to see clearly in the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for viewing and using a computer or interacting socially, and at close distance for reading a book or assignment.
- Eye focusing — A child’s ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change, such as when looking from the chalkboard to a paper on a desk, and then looking back at the chalkboard and so on. Eye focusing allows a child to easily maintain clear vision over time when reading a book or writing a report.
- Eye tracking — A child’s ability to keep his or her eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving his or her eyes along a line of text, or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
- Eye teaming — A child’s ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving focus along a line of text, to judge distances, and to see depth for classwork and sports.
- Eye-hand coordination — A child’s ability to use visual information to monitor and direct his or her hands when writing, drawing a picture, or catching a ball.
- Visual perception — A child’s ability to organize images on a printed page or chalkboard into letters, words and ideas, and to understand and remember what is read or viewed.
1. Journal of Behavior Optometry, Visual Screening of Adjudicated Adolescents, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1999.
2. American Optometric Association, Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline, 1994.
3. J.N. Zaba, Vision’s relationship to delinquency, illiteracy and learning problems, 2001.
For more information on Illinois’ vision screening requirements and guidelines, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Vision and Hearing page.