May is Healthy Vision Month.
Millions of Americans are living with undetected eye health issues, according to the U.S.-based National Eye Institute. Each year, the institute uses Healthy Vision Month to draw awareness to the importance of eye health.
This is a call-to-action – one that hopefully gets more Americans and Canadians seeing the value of eye health more clearly.
But among those living with eye health issues are people who probably won’t notice such a campaign. In fact, they might not even recognize that they’re living with poor quality vision.
This is a personal issue for me: one of my granddaughters struggled until she was prescribed -6.00 lenses. This changed her quality of life dramatically.
She was not alone: I learned that 80% of a child’s learning is through vision, and that one in 10 children in the United States have a vision issue significant enough to impact their learning if left unaddressed.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for a parent to identify visual impairments in their child. Behaviour that may seem endearing – your child asking you to read to them – could actually be a sign that they are having difficulty seeing or reading.
Symptoms of vision challenges can sometimes appear as developmental disabilities too. It also happens that many children with a vision impairment are often living with a developmental disability.
Seeing the full meaning of vision
I think May also provides an opportunity to reflect on the following: that healthy vision involves more than just our eyes.
I have learned a lot from the Canadian optometrist Dr. Stelios Nikolakakis. He runs Mind’s Eye Neuro-Visual Optometry in Toronto – a practice dedicated to viewing vision holistically.
After all, our eyes look, but it is own brain that sees. Neuro-Visual Training (NVT) helps ensure both work together.
This can be a valuable tool for children. Dr. Nikolakakis has seen first-hand how children who are struggling with vision challenges – and often behavioural challenges as a result – can have their quality of life drastically improved with a bit of training.
Put simply, NVT techniques help coordinate our eyes and our brain. The exercises used to do this likely appear as play from the perspective of a child, but they can help set kids up for an enjoyable academic career, a successful professional one and a better life.
If you’ve tried NVT, I’d love to hear from you.