Keep Your Eye Safe Around the Swimming Pool

We filed into the gymnasium one by one that musty smell of children on the brink of needing deodorant wafting through the air. The school nurse and some volunteers from the high school started splitting us up into groups to stand on the pieces of tape on the floor in front of the multiple eye charts. Threatened with lunch detention for making excessive noise we stood there waiting our turn as our peers mumbled out letters from the eye chart. Finally, it was my turn, I covered my left eye and read the bottom line, I covered my right eye and realized with a shock that I could read less than halfway down the chart. With both eyes, I rattled off the bottom line with ease.

My school never informed my parents that my left eye was blurred. I complained to my mom that my left eye wasn’t as good as my right, but since I wasn’t struggling in school (the nerd in me loved the front row) and with both eyes I seemed to be just fine (thankfully at 10 I wasn’t driving) she never took me to the eye doctor. It wasn’t until 2 years later when I started experiencing excruciating headaches that I was taken to Walmart Optical. I received my first pair of glasses that afternoon.

My first pair of glasses were brown and unassuming. They slid down my nose, so I developed a sort of tick constantly pushing them up. My dad and I picked them up and I remember stepping out into the parking lot and being amazed.

“Dad, did you know that the leaves have markings on them?” I marveled at the detail in the trees that I had been missing. From that point on new glasses, and then contacts became a yearly ritual. Each year my prescription changed significantly as I grew older before balancing out around age 20.

My experience is not unique, many students with vision problems get overlooked during school screenings and even pediatrician visits. Contrary to popular belief, your eyes do more than read an eye chart. Only a qualified eye care professional can check visual acuity, eye health, and binocular vision. Binocular vision refers to how well the eyes work together as a team. Are they aiming well together? Are both images clear? The binocular vision status of your child affects their depth perception and tracking. The lack of depth perception could lead to a child being clumsy and accident prone, and could keep them from participating in sports. Tracking refers to the ability of the eyes to move smoothly- as in across a page while reading. Who wants to read with the words jumping all around the place? Just like my blurred vision wasn’t obvious, binocular vision problems are not always easily detected by parents or teachers. A study at Mayo Clinic found that children with binocular vision problems were more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD.

As the new school year approaches, make sure your child has all of their pencils, plenty of paper, the coolest new shoes, and healthy vision. Don’t wait for them to complain- they often won’t because, like me, they don’t know that the leaves are textured or that the words in their book are supposed to stay put. Save yourself the fights over homework, parent-teacher conferences, and the frustration of a struggling student by equipping them to succeed from day 1.