Optometrists’ role in helping children succeed: Pediatric Practical

Doctor viewing child's eye through slit lamp, Illinois College of Optometry, Illinois Eye Institute, learning, clinicians, pediatrics

This past week, my fellow third years and I had a practical unlike any other. Usually, practicals are done by individual students and can feel stressful. This practical was in groups of five or six. It wasn’t very stressful, and our patients were children between the ages of 6 and 12.

You may be wondering, “What is the big difference between doing VAs and normal tests on children versus adults?” but we were not practicing day-to-day tests on these kids. Instead, the tests were based on laterality, directionality, discrimination, memory, etc. We tested visual motor problems, sentence copying, and auditory tests. We also did a Slosson Intelligence test.

You may also ask, “Why are optometrists concerned about laterality (telling right from left) and auditory problems?” These are important for child development, and determine how well they are succeeding in school. Refraction and binocular issues can cause problems with focus and concentration in the classroom or with near work like homework or reading.

If the above conditions are normal, we can also start testing visual information processing. Once we make sure that information can get through the brain into the eyes, the next step is assuring that the brain can process the information. Once we figure out what the issue is, we can send the children to other specialists.

Children who are suspected of having ADD or ADHD should have an eye exam before starting medication because glasses could potentially fix the problem. I think we need to get awareness to parents that refractive, binocular, or visual processing could be affecting their child’s success in grades, and even how they behave.

I find Pediatric class super interesting, and it was reiterated in this lab. As aspiring optometrists, we have the responsibility to do everything we can do to help children succeed. However, I think it is more than just a responsibility- it’s a privilege.

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