The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that a massive 80% of all learning during the first 12 years of a child’s life is conducted through their eyes. For this reason, it is unsurprising that sight difficulties can have such a significant impact on children’s development and their performance at school.
As a teacher, you will often be the first person to pick up on the fact that a child may have a vision impairment. Your observation in the classroom could improve the quality of their future education, personal development, and social life, so it is essential to know the signs to look out for.
Here are eleven signs that a pupil may be struggling with their sight
- They get frustrated easily
Frustration can stem from many things, including sight difficulties. A child who is struggling to make out what you are writing on the board or cannot read their own worksheet is likely to get angry and frustrated at their inability to complete a given task.
- They always sit at the front of the class
Children who are short-sighted and have the option to choose where they sit in class may automatically be drawn to seats in the front row that allow them to see more clearly. Although sitting at the front isn’t an automatic sign that a child may be having trouble with their sight, it could be an indication if they show one or more of the other signs.
- They hold their book right in front of their nose
Nearsighted children tend to have fairly good vision at very close distances, and so will bring objects up closer to them to be able to see them more clearly. If you notice that a student is holding their book or their work very close to their face, then this is a sign that they could be nearsighted.
- They squint a lot
Squinting narrows the field of vision, making objects look temporarily clearer. If you notice a pupil wrinkling their face and squinting their eyes when trying to read the board, this could indicate that they are having trouble with their vision.
- They rub their eyes
Eye-rubbing is a sign that a child may be suffering from eye-fatigue, which is often caused by squinting or straining. If they are rubbing their eyes a lot and are not doing so because they are tired, this could be because they are trying to compensate for a sight difficulty.
- They often complain of headaches
Children who are struggling to see will often strain their eyes, which can lead to headaches. If you have a pupil who is always complaining of a headache then a sight problem could be the underlying reason.
- They close one eye to focus or read
Pupils whose sight is better in one eye than the other may close their bad eye to improve their vision. If you notice a student closing or covering one of their eyes to read their book or focus on the board then this could be because they struggle to see when both eyes are open.
- They often lose their place when reading
If a student struggles to read without losing their place or uses their finger to trace the line as they read it, this could signify that they have astigmatism. Significant astigmatisms can cause distortions in a person’s vision, making it difficult for them to focus on a particular word or line.
- They’re struggling to keep up with the rest of the class
Sometimes, the signs of vision impairment are not as obvious as a student having a headache or holding objects close to their face and you may just notice the quality of their work declining or the fact that they are not keeping up with the rest of the class, despite the fact that they perform well during listening or verbal tasks.
- They’re asking other students to read the board or tell them what is going on
If a child is struggling to read the board or to see your visual cues, then they may need to ask other students to explain to them what is going on. This can sometimes look like disobedient chit-chatter, so it is important to keep an ear out to see what is being said.
- They’re clumsier than usual
Although many children are clumsy at the best of times, if you notice that students seem to be consistently walking into things or tripping over objects, they may be struggling to see them and could have a vision impairment.
What to do if you suspect a student has a vision impairment
If you suspect that one of your students has a vision impairment of some sort, then you must speak with their parents to raise your concerns. Explain the symptoms that you have seen and advise that the parents take their child to see an eye doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. Once the student has had an eye doctor appointment, they will be able to get a pair of high quality glasses and begin to fall in love with learning again.
Helping a child to settle in with glasses
It’s not uncommon for students to try not to wear their glasses at school, but you must encourage them to do so. If you know that a child has glasses that they are not wearing, then subtly prompt them to put them on before the lesson begins. If you notice that a child is consistently choosing not to wear their glasses and it is affecting their performance at school, then you may want to raise the issue with their parents to see if there is something that can be done about it. Sometimes, children will refuse to wear their glasses if they do not like the style or find that the lenses give them a headache, both of which can be solved by taking a trip back to the optometrist.
So there you have it – 11 signs that your student may have vision difficulties and what you as their teacher can do to help them.