Eye Doctors, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake

School-aged vision — and what you need to know

By Gontarek Eye Care – 9/5/2017

This month we’d like to talk with you about the vision of school-aged children ages 6 – 18.

Unfortunately, parents and educators often incorrectly assume that if a child passes a school screening, then there is no vision problem. However, many school vision screenings only test for distance visual acuity. A child who can see 20/20 can still have a vision problem. In reality, the vision skills needed for successful reading and learning are much more complex.

As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly. Increased class work and homework place significant demands on the child’s eyes. Unfortunately, the visual abilities of some students aren’t performing up to the task.

When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically:

  • Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible.
  • Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency.
  • Experience discomfort, fatigue and a short attention span.

Vision is more than just the ability to see clearly, or having 20/20 eyesight. It is also the ability to understand and respond to what is seen. Basic visual skills include the ability to focus the eyes, use both eyes together as a team, and move them effectively. Other visual perceptual skills include:

  • Recognition (ability to tell difference between letters like “b” and “d”)
  • Comprehension (to “picture” in our mind what is happening in a story we are reading)
  • Retention (to be able to remember and recall details of what we read).


Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:

  • Visual acuity — the ability to see clearly in the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for the computer, and up close for reading a book.
  • Eye Focusing — the 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 the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or writing a report.
  • Eye tracking — the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page, or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
  • Eye teaming — the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
  • Eye-hand coordination — the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
  • Visual perception — the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.

If any of these visual skills are lacking or not functioning properly, a child will have to work harder. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems. Parents and teachers need to be alert for symptoms that may indicate a child has a vision problem.

Signs of Eye and Vision Problems
A child may not tell you that he or she has a vision problem because they may think the way they see is the way everyone sees. Signs that may indicate a child has vision problem include:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
  • Short attention span
  • Avoiding reading and other close activities
  • Frequent headaches
  • Covering one eye
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Holding reading materials close to the face
  • An eye turning in or out
  • Seeing double
  •  Losing place when reading
  • Difficulty remembering what he or she read

We recommend an annual eye exam, and sometimes see our patients more frequently if needed.

If your child has never had a Comprehensive Eye Examination, we encourage you to schedule one today by calling us at (757) 966-2206.


About our eye care clinic

Since 2010, our eye doctors have provided families in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake with the best eye care possible. Our eye clinic is rooted in the philosophy of good old fashioned honesty and customer service – and our patients appreciate that. Our eye doctors and staff provide everything from eye exams glasses, and contacts, to co-managing surgical patients.