In the winter/spring, we were without health insurance for about 6 months while my husband went through a job transition.  Now we have insurance again, and it’s very fabulous coverage!  I found out that our vision plan has a $15 co-pay for eye exams, and glasses are almost totally paid for, and so I made appointments for myself (the dog got into my glasses several months ago and they’ve never been the same) and for Gresham (because he’s 6 and has never had his eyes checked).

Gresham has never complained about his vision.  He reads well above his grade level, and enjoys reading for fun – for an hour a day or more!  His only symptom has been sitting really close to the TV.  My husband got glasses when he was about 11 years old, and I got glasses in college, and neither of us have a very strong prescription, and so we did not really suspect that our son had much of a vision problem, if any at all.

When vision problems hide...

Anyway, at the eye doctor’s office, it didn’t take long to discover that Gresham had something going on!  The doctor announced that Gresham is not using his left eye and asked if I had noticed.  Um, no!  I hadn’t noticed at all!  She asked him to focus on a bead that she held a few inches in front of him.  Then, she covered one eye at a time.  When his left eye was covered, it would roll toward the center, but when she covered the right eye and forced him to use the left, it would jump back into action!  It was pretty weird to watch.

The diagnosis:  Gresham has moderate farsightedness (can’t see close up), with a prescription of +4.  He also has some astigmatism in both eyes.  His eyes see about the same as each other, so he does not have a true lazy eye.  His eyes just don’t work together very well.  Because of the fact that his eyes don’t work together, he can’t see in 3D at all, so the doctor said not to waste money on a 3D movie ticket for him!  I’m not sure how much depth perception he has, but I’m sure it’s not great even though it doesn’t seem to affect him.

The thing about farsightedness is that kids can compensate for it really well.  That means that Gresham actually could see fairly clearly.  But his eyes were working extremely hard every day just to see.  During the exam, he had to have his eyes dilated to get his eye muscles to relax enough that the doctor could figure out what his prescription should be.  Gresham’s new glasses will enable his eye muscles to relax, and his eyes should learn to work together again.  We go back for a follow-up appointment in a few weeks to see how his eyes are doing with the new glasses.

Gresham has had his glasses for four days, and he LOVES them.  He didn’t think he would.  In fact, he cried about having to get them.  But now that he has them, he has worn them every waking moment.  And he is so much happier!  He never smiles for pictures, but when we came home with his new glasses, he was just grinning from ear to ear!

Gresham is not a kid who complains (we’ve had a ruptured ear drum because he didn’t mention that it hurt until it was extremely bad), and he didn’t appear to have trouble seeing.  So who knows how long his vision has been bad!

In hindsight, here are the warning signs that I see:

  • Left eye rolling toward the center, slight cross-eyed look that I started noticing at home as soon as I knew it was there!
  • Sitting very close to the TV.
  • Resistance to doing any kind of schoolwork, even though he loves to read and he loves to learn.  But he has been having tantrums and pouting about schoolwork for the past 3 months or so.  I’m guessing that his schoolwork has felt really difficult.
  • Resistance to practicing his violin.  And I could never get him to look down at his bow.
  • General grouchy attitude.

Classic warning signs that Gresham did not have:

  • Did not hold books in a weird position to read – even though his vision up close was terrible!
  • Did not complain about vision – probably because he didn’t know any different!
  • Did not have trouble reading things that are far away.

If you can afford it, I would highly recommend scheduling your child a vision appointment with a full-service doctor (not just the doctor at Walmart or Eye Masters, unless you know a good one).  Gresham probably could have passed a screening if he were in public school because his eyes were working really hard to compensate for his poor vision.  It took more attention to get to the bottom of his problem.  I’ll be taking the other boys later this summer!

Have you had the experience of not realizing your child had a vision problem?  What tips can you add?

18 Comments

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  1. Rebecca Jun 24, 2013

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this! My son is 5 and has mentioned some weird eye things, like how he can make our heads looks smaller(??), but I'm not sure if he's been making his eyes do these things or if he's actually got something going on with his vision. I haven't noticed any other issues with his reading or anything like that, but my husband has had terrible vision much of his life, so this post was final confirmation that we should get him into the eye doc for a full checkup soon.

    P.S. Your site is so wonderful! My two boys made the catapult this weekend with my husband and it's still package-taped to the coffee table, ready to fling small Playmobil items all week :)

    Reply
    1. Tanya Jun 24, 2013

      We discovered our boy had problems after he started school. Our school likes all kids to have hearing and sight checked before they start but we hadn't quite got around to the sight check. When we did we discovered he was definitely in need of glasses. His first prescription was +6 and he is now +7.
      We though he was just a clumsy kid as he is very gangly and would run into things and trip a lot. From a very young age he would stick a finger in his eye, especially when he was tired. When we would point at something and tell him to pick it up or go get it he would just look at the end of our finger (we thought he couldn't get the idea of seeing pointing NOT that he couldn't see what we were pointing at) Duh... I was mortified when I realised.
      Something the doc told us is if you look into their eyes or even in photos and the 'shine' is in a different part of the eye. If you know what I mean (not sure how to explain it)
      Our boy also didn't complain of not being able to see or headaches - which I imagine the finger in the eye was about.....cause obviously that was his "normal".

      Reply
      1. Angela Jun 24, 2013

        Thank you for this post! I work as an eye tech and I appreciate your recommending a full service examination (ie a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist). They work with kids all the time and are trained in the special art of working with that special demographic. It truly is an art. I love your son's smile in the pic. He looks great in his glasses! Thank you for raising awareness. And what Tanya above is talking about is the light reflex on the eyes in pictures. If it is reflecting off the center of one eye then it should also be on the center in the other eye. If you question it, you can always bring a photo or 2 with you to the eye exam. And sometimes kids eyes will only cross when they are tired.

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        1. Leann | The Hands-On Homeschooler Jun 24, 2013

          I've noticed that my son has issues with his eyes since he was a baby. They just don't look straight forward! We've had them checked out twice by optometrists, but they do not find anything. :( Hopefully sometime soon they'll discover what the issue is for him, and maybe then he'll learn to love reading. I think that's part of the struggle for him.

          Reply
          1. angela Jun 26, 2013

            It's time to see a pediatric ophthalmologist if you aren't happy with what you have been told.some kids have large epicanthal folds (more skin between their eyes) that make it look like they hab e crossed eyes but they do not. I would find a pediatric ophthalmologist. if there is a problem, the sooner you catch and address it, the better for vision potential if that is being affected. acter a certain age, about 8 you can't recober vision with patching or other people methods.

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          2. rohfam4 Jun 24, 2013

            Again, thank you for your mention of this. I am a kindergarten teacher and have worked in SPED for 8 years. I felt like I was fairly informed when it came to child learning struggles, etc. We have been struggling with our 4 year old since he could walk. We started in speech, that led to PT, now we are in OT for gross and fine motor delays. He was even "kicked out" of our church preschool for not liking arts and crafts and being impulsive. My heart knew he wasn't ADHD as he loved to learn and engage in motivating activities. It wasn't until his PT in preschool said his eyes weren't tracking that led us down a new path...We were recommended to a Developmental Optometrist and he was diagnosed with an Accommodation Dysfunction. Basically, he had a really hard time focusing for a period of time longer than seconds, up close. Now, he has glasses that slightly magnify his world and he is in vision therapy for 6 months to a year. This is costly, but his condition is correctable. The way we see it, if he needed insulin, he would get that. He is a completely different kid! He came across oppositional/defiant, impulsive, etc. and now he is making so many gains that we feel that his vision impacted his strength and speech in so many areas. I think he will be out of services in a year! The book that changed my world is called, "When Your Child Struggles, The Myth of 20/20 vision" by David Cook. I have learned that a school screening is only a distance exam and equates to only 20% of vision problems. The other 80% can go undiagnosed unless done by a highly trained eye doctor. I am convinced that many children we put on IEP's for specialized instruction may have had vision issues or our called "learning disabled." I highly recommend this easy to read book and thank you for spreading the word!

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            1. Barbara W Hollands Sep 22, 2018

              Yes! My son had ok vision as checked by the eye dr but he was having such difficulty with his reading , even later than his brothers, who all read at a later age than normal though very bright, that when I saw an ad for an eye specialist I set up an appointment right away. The eye specialist turned out to be a world wide authority on eye problems children have that cause difficulties in reading. He was able to determine what the problem was and give us eye exercises for my son to do. It helped enormously. My son would have been labeled learning disabled but all he needed was help with his eyesight that even a good regular eye doctor did not know about.

              Reply
            2. Bernadine Jun 25, 2013

              I was a teacher for many years and I once heard that 30% of all school age children need glasses. I found that astonishing! That meant out of my 33 students in each class, about 9 should have glasses. I maybe had 2 in each.

              I would see kids squint at the board and ask about their vision, more than half the time I found out through other kids ratting them out, or their parents that they in fact had glasses but refused to wear them in class.

              I did everything I could to get the kids to wear their glasses. I moved their seat to the back of the room so it would be harder to see and they had to wear their glasses. I would offer extra credit randomly to all kids wearing glasses that day. And one girl in particular was so worried about her appearance I offered the entire class extra credit and her quadruple extra credit if she wore them for one week, the gentle peer pressure eventually got to her and she did it! After the week was up she was used to wearing them and wore them most of the time.

              I'm so glad you wrote this post today. In our area the Lion's Club often hosts vision tests for children and pay for glasses for families in need.

              Reply
              1. Mary Jun 25, 2013

                I am a teacher for students with visual impairments. It is always a good thing to watch how your child looks at things, even in their first year. If they are not focusing on your face, or don't appear to look into your eyes. Watch how they respond to toys, and how they reach for them. Do they miss? Do they use touch more than vision? They may be able to see a shape or color, but not judge the distance correctly. If you have concerns that are not answered by an optometrist, I would recommend an ophthalmologist. They can make a diagnosis of a medical nature when it comes to the eyes. In other words, diagnose a vision impairment that is beyond normal need glasses situations.
                All children's eyes take a few years to mature. Generally, they improve and stabilize until around the age of 9 or 10. That is when a lot of teachers see kiddos showing up with new glasses. But obviously, eyes can need assistance at an earlier age.
                Putting a finger in the eye is something known in the blindness and low vision field as eye poking. I can't say that I have heard of it in a child with normal vision (in Iowa, where I teach, low vision is defined as 20/70 or worse, and legal blindness is 20/200 or worse that cannot be corrected with glasses). Poking the eye causes flashing lights and other sort of visual stimulation. Children with low vision will sometimes do this to have a fun visual reaction. It can cause harm, though, so we always work to stop that.
                Just in case there is anyone who reads this who has a child with diagnosed low vision or legal blindness...check with your school. Every state has teachers like me working in the school system somewhere. At the very least they would be able to offer assessments and follow up with recommendations for seating, lighting, possible assistive technology, etc. At the most, they could teach certain skills like how to use technology, how to ask for help when they can't see, even braille at the extreme.
                Remember, 80% of what a child learns in the early years comes through seeing. When they can't see properly, this will be delayed. So, pardon the pun, keep a close eye on it:-)

                Reply
                1. Nicole Jun 25, 2013

                  We discovered my son has Brown's Syndrome when he was two. That is when one of the eyes won't raise up because the muscle is too tight and it causes double vision. He compensated pretty well, but every once in a while I noticed his eyes looks funny. Finally I was able to snap a photo with my phone and showed it to his Dr during his 2 year old appt. The Dr has never seen it before so we went to pediatric ophthalmologist. His vision isn't bad enough to need glasses yet, but I did learn that the eye develops till about the age of 7, so we need to go see the ophthalmologist ever year to make sure he doesn't develop lazy eye or neck problems from compensating. Plus, his dad and I are both pretty blind and have been since grade school, so I am sure it won't be long till he needs glasses.

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                  1. Jessica Jun 25, 2013

                    Thanks for sharing this! I haven't dealt with vision issues (yet) but when we took our 5 year old daughter to a speech therapist to help her stop thumb sucking, they did an evaluation of her speech and facial muscles and it turns out she has lots of problems. So now we are starting at least a year of therapy and I had no clue that there was a problem at all! She had "passed" the preschool screening in our city.
                    I just found your website recently and I have gotten lots of ideas from it!
                    Jessica

                    Reply
                    1. Sara Jun 25, 2013

                      Thanks for a great post,

                      I would highly recommend seeing someone who is trained in eye therapy. My son had a true lazy eye with no visible crossing. With eye therapy, all aspects of his vision have improved including 3D vision. Both eyes are working together. This is different than a regular eye doctor, but is well woth it.

                      Sara

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                      1. Lindsay Jun 25, 2013

                        This happened to me last year with my daughter, who was seven at the time. The doctor discovered her eyes were not working together which resulted in her having double vision and very little depth perception. We had not idea and felt terrible for not noticing. Here is a program her doctor recommended: http://www.computerorthoptics.com/. Hope this helps someone!

                        Reply
                        1. Kirsten Jun 25, 2013

                          Great post! I just wanted to share a heads up for an eye condition that I developed last year called Keratoconus. Keratoconus causes the cornea to "cone" or bulge out thus causing double or even triple vision, halos, extreme light sensitivity and can often deteriorate to the point that a cornea transplant is needed. This disease can often have a genetic link and my doctor advised that I get a base line corneal mapping of all my children, so if their vision starts to change, we can compare scans and see if the changes are from Keratoconus. This is very important as new treatments are now available to stop the progression of this disease. These treatments are most effective if the disease is caught early.

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                          1. Shelly Sep 22, 2018

                            Kristen, My husband found out last year that he has this. He never needed glasses until he was 31 and diagnosed with this. It sounds pretty scary. As far as he know no one in his family has it. Our kids don’t have it, but we will have to continue getting them checked.

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                          2. Stephanie Jun 26, 2013

                            I would highly recommend the book "Fixing my Gaze" by Susan R. Barry, with an introduction by Oliver Sacks (well known neurologist). I read it after starting my own son with vision therapy, and it was an IMMENSE help in understanding what vision therapy is, how it works, etc. Unfortunately there's something of a huge disagreement about the value of vision therapy in the optometrist/opthamologist community. We got our son glasses at age 5 for farsightedness and accomodative esotropia (an eye turn, and similarly to you, we had no idea he had any problems at all), and his pediatric opthamologist told us that kids usually acquire 3D vision without therapy help, and that vision therapy wasn't really a productive use of resources for our son. 6 months later she declared he had his 3D vision 50% to normal, and he progressed no further. Because of other issues, we did an evaluation with a vision therapist 6 months after that (now a year after he'd gotten glasses), and the vision doctor there showed us that our son actually still had zero depth perception. My son had been unintentionally faking out the opthamologist, pointing to the picture that looked "different" in the small little 3D chart she had used - to him, it just looks like several images stamped on top of each other in not quite the right place, not that its coming out of the page" at him, because he has no frame of reference for what that means. After 8 months of vision therapy, his 3D vision is finally improving - hooray! You and your doctor may decided to wait and see if your son's 3D vision improves on its own, but I would caution that its very hard to tell that objectively without sophisticated testing, and again, I would highly recommend giving "Fixing my Gaze" a read so you are prepared if you need to find a vision therapist. Good luck!!!! (And my son ALSO resists schoolwork - writing that is - like the plague. Even though he loves to read. Poor kiddos! The vision therapists had a bunch of recommends that we put in place at school and at home that made a HUGE difference with his attitude - another reason it was worth it to see them....)

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                            1. Beth Jul 8, 2013

                              Please, please, please take your son for a follow-up visit with a pediatric OPHTHAMOLOGIST! My son was recently diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye). We had no idea. An optometrist and opthamologist treat these issues totally different. My son had virtually no vision in his bad eye (prescription in the 13s) but perfect vision in the good eye. With patching and glasses under the guidance of his opthamologist, he's regained nearly all of vision in his bad eye, which we not given much hope of.

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                              1. Susan Feb 12, 2014

                                I came across this post recently and something resonated with me. I decided to make an appt for my daughter. Actually, one day she had been bumping into me a lot and I asked if she sometimes thought I was further away than I really was and she said yes. So we went to a new optometrist, one we actually new and it turns out that Yes! something is going on with her eyes. Definitely, my daughter cannot see 3D, but the doctor said there is something else going on she's not sure of. We have a follow up next week to see if the test results are different. She is also requesting the records from the previous two doctors to compare (I thought that was thorough!) The doctor told my daughter she was her 'project for the month'. I finally feel like we may get to the bottom of this! So thank you! thank you! for this post that moved me into action.

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                                1. Sarah Feb 13, 2014

                                  That's great! Sounds like you found a really good doctor, and I hope that they can get to the bottom of what's going on with your daughter's eyes!

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                                2. Carolyn Oct 21, 2017

                                  I know these are old posts, but I am extremely interested about finding some vision therapy I can help my 8 yr old daughter with, at home. I have done some research, and there was a study done on kids who had in-office vision therapy, which helped 70% of the kids, they also did some home therapy for homework. But, the study also looked at just home- based vision therapy, and 40% of the kids had improved vision, with this alone. I took my daughter to get her eyes examined, and her actual vision is fine, she has Convergence Insufficiency, in both eyes, one is worse. Her eye has trouble pulling in to focus while reading-exophoria. It is not being utilized by the brain, because it could cause her to see double, the brain ignores her eye with the muscle problem, and only "listens to" her good eye. This could cause her to have a lazy eye over time, because her eye is not being used. Her eye doctor prescribed prism glasses, with no vision therapy, because they do not do it at her office. She did do a thorough examination, and explained things well. The problem with just getting her glasses is, it doesn't fix the problem. The glasses will help the symptoms only. But, if she can get vision therapy, it actually fixes the problem and causes her eyes to be able to start focusing on things up close, like reading. The vision therapy is $4500 for 32 sessions, and my insurance will not pay for it. I know there are some computer programs for vision therapy out there, but the research I have seen has not included that. I am wondering if anyone can give me some resources I can use to check into home therapy. Websites, books, journal articles, etc. Thank you so much!

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                                  1. Shelly Sep 22, 2018

                                    Carolyn, My son had the same problems. We found a vision therapy center an hour away that had us come in once a week and we continued 6 months until he was totally better, and it cost us about $2500. They let us pay per appointment and weren’t gouging us like some places seem to. We had one in our home town but it was more expensive, so I decided to drive to the one farther away. It was a pain, but it was just for a season. It was a HUGE improvement for him. I can’t even imagine how positively it impacted the rest of his life as his progress is permanent. If you haven’t yet, try to find other places to compare prices. This place was even willing for us to come every other week, but said the best benefit was weekly. And it was. Every week she assigned new exercises depending on his progress. They knew way more than I did about what exactly he needed to do.

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                                  2. Julie Floyd Sep 22, 2018

                                    My daughter, at age 7, had stopped progressing in her reading skills. Her Montessori teacher expressed concerns. We also noticed she was more angry, even agressive than usual. I called a local eye doctor. He was very busy and couldn't see her right away but gave me a simple test to perform on her. He told me to have her watch the tip of a pencil as I made a few circles and then slowly bring it to her nose. See if she can cross her eyes. She couldn't. Her left eye would always float back to center. She needed vision therapy. After 1 year my 8 year old was reading at an 11th grade level.

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                                    1. Shelly Sep 22, 2018

                                      Sounds like my son!!! SO thankful for vision therapy! :)

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                                    2. Shelly Sep 22, 2018

                                      My son was 6 when I had him tested at a Brain Balance center for being very dominately left brained with ADHD. They thoroughly tested all the senses, and his vision tests came out with the biggest red flag. His actual vision is fine, 20/20, but his eye movements and muscle strength was very poor. I had never thought about it because he never had signs of visual difficulties. He could read works way above his age level, but he couldn’t read more than a couple sentences without getting frustrated and tired. His eyes weren’t teaming, converging or tracking effectively at all. We went to an optometrist who specialized in vision therapy, and after the first month we saw amazing progress. His first exercise was looking at a small object on the end of a pencil for 10 seconds at a time. He couldn’t even go more than 4 seconds! I actually cried watching him struggle because I had NO idea he had a eye problem. He couldnt keep them still. No wonder we had such a hard time getting him to look at the camera for pictures, and why he would sometimes put his hands up like blinders if we insisted he look us in the eyes, but would still struggle not to look to the side after 2 seconds. We thought he was just very easily distracted, but it turns out he just couldn’t keep them steady. We continued the therapy sessions weekly with 1/2 hour a day of various exercises catered to his needs & progress at home for 6 months altogether and the results were incredible!!! He improved to at least age level or beyond in all of the testing areas and could read chapter books with ease after 3 months. His world just opened up beautifully because he loves to learn and read. I can’t imagine how much more difficult school and life would be for him now at age 8 and beyond if we did not do the vision therapy. It also improved his fine and gross motor skills which he was behind on developmentally, all because of his eyes. I just thought he was clumsy & uncoordinated! The doctor says it starts as a baby, and for him probably because he didn’t lay on his belly enough and didn’t crawl long enough before learning to walk. I had no idea it was that important to development. I wish I knew or my pediatrician had educated me. Almost no one I knew had ever been taught either, even medical professionals. I’m even a nurse! (Not pediatrics, though). If your child has any of these symptoms, please take them to an eye doctor who specializes in vision therapy and get them assessed! It’s worth it.

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