To a world full of people holding cell phones close to their faces, Dr. Abby Overstreet-Hogle displays the proper working distance for any reading material, whether traditional or electronic.
In just a few short weeks, school will begin again, and thoughts are already turning to preparation. As parents visit retail stores to shop for clothing and school supplies, they often neglect to make another very important visit. In fact, it may not occur to most parents that a routine stop at the eye doctor should be a yearly priority for their children.
“A lot of times, parents won’t realize their child has a problem until he or she fails the school screening, because the child has never complained,” says Dr. Abby Overstreet-Hogle of Advanced Vision Center and Eyewear Boutique in Claremore. “But if a child doesn’t know what ‘clear’ is, how do they know what they’re seeing is blurry?”
Since children in particular have no previous experience by which to judge their current state of vision, Dr. Overstreet-Hogle advises parents to begin screening as soon as possible, preferably before kindergarten. Both vision and the health of the eyes themselves should be monitored yearly, so that prescriptions can be changed accordingly and problems can be detected early.
Dr. Overstreet-Hogle wants parents to understand the myriad of ways that poor vision can affect a child. “Of course, vision affects reading and reading comprehension,” she says. “But if a child doesn’t see well, there may be behavioral issues as well.”
She goes on to explain that a child who cannot see properly will lose concentration and focus, and this will cause the child to become bored, distracted, and even frustrated. Depending on the personality of the child, he or she will choose to fill their time in other ways. One child may daydream and completely zone out, and another may constantly pester and distract their friends or otherwise get into mischief. Two seemingly very different children may be suffering from the very same problem—poor vision—and may just be manifesting that problem in different ways. Dr. Overstreet-Hogle is always amazed at how many problems with grades and behavior seem to magically clear up when a child’s vision is corrected.
It is important to note that vision correction is ongoing. Prescriptions change and problems that were not present one year may arise by the next. Dr. Overstreet-Hogle notes that this is especially true with the current, heavy dependence on electronic media, especially cell phones. Another symptom of poor vision is frequent headaches and Dr. Overstreet-Hogle has seen a dramatic increase in vision- related headaches during the last five years as personal cell phone usage has become the norm. Now, more than ever before, Dr. Overstreet-Hogle advises frequent breaks for the eyes.
“You should give your eyes a break from the cell phone at least every thirty minutes for at least ten minutes,” she says. “And when you are reading anything, you should observe the proper reading distance to reduce eye strain.”
She goes on to compare eye focus to the zoom function on a camera. “When you are focusing on reading, the eye is just like a camera, with the pupil allowing light to enter like the aperture on the camera,” she points out. “If you were to constantly use the zoom focus on a camera, the battery on the camera would lose power very quickly—and the same will happen with your eyes if you continually use your ‘zoom’ function without any relief.”
It’s easy to see that when it comes to vision, both prevention and correction are of extreme importance for any child’s success in the classroom for the coming year. And since our society depends so heavily on technology for news and entertainment, new vision problems can creep up at any time. Establishing a routine visit to the eye doctor is more important now than ever before for your child’s academic advancement and general well-being. This year, make a visit to Dr. Abby Overstreet-Hogle the first stop in your back to school preparation trip. After all, what good are colorful school supplies and stylish clothing if your child cannot see them to use and enjoy?
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