Pediatric eye care can never begin too early. Emotional disturbance can negatively affect a child’s eyesight. The good parent will try to keep his child emotionally healthy. All our fears-with the exception of the fear of sudden noise and the fear of falling, which seem to be innate-are acquired; most of them when we are so young that we do not understand what has happened.
The child who reaches adult years free of fears is the child of exceptionally intelligent and well-disciplined parents.
Dr. James C. Maloney, who spent considerable time in Okinawa Shima, was amazed to find that even very young children had survived the hideous conditions of the past years without developing neuroses, and had undergone attacks without so much as bursting into tears.
Much of their emotional balance he laid to the fact that the baby is carried on its mother’s back during its early years, and is subjected to no startling conditions without its mother being at hand to check its fears and give it a sensation of complete security in addition to the physical condition of security from being in actual physical contact with the mother’s body.
But while these are comparatively intangible forces, we have to deal with more concrete matters as soon as the child begins to read. Too often reading creates bad habits from the very beginning. In the past, we have taught children how to read, with all the emphasis laid on the words they learned and with almost no attention devoted to the physical process of reading itself.
It is not merely the art of reading that should be taught to children but the art of using their eyes. The pedagogues are experimenting with improved ways of imparting meaning to the child’s mind. Indeed, our education has centered so exclusively on the mind that the development of correct body habits has been sacrificed at every turn.
A momentary refractive error is caused when one looks at unfamiliar objects. Now, obviously, the younger the child, the more unfamiliar objects he will see, because to the young everything is new and strange. The first years in school are a continual exposure to new objects, new ideas, new concepts and new words. Naturally, the child is subject to frequent refractive errors.
When there is added to this the emotional strain that comes with fear of a teacher, or of doing poor work, or of not understanding, or of not seeing what is being written on the blackboard, a mental and consequently a muscular tension arises. The child, unable to make out the new word at first glance because its meaning is strange to him, stares at it, trying to see and understand it better.
It is easy to teach the child to relieve strain by glancing at some familiar object, no matter what it may happen to be. Pediatric eye care can begin in the home simply with the parent closely observing his child.
It has become increasingly urgent that the parent should say, not as in the past, “Let me hear you read your lesson, Kate,” but, “Let me see how you are reading.”
Is the child’s posture good? Has he the proper light on his book? Is his book held from twelve to fourteen inches away from his eyes? Is he frowning or are his eyes screwed up, or is he reading through narrowed lids?
Be alert for signs of staring and teach the child to blink naturally, to shift focus from near to far. When there are evidences of strain, the logical process is to eliminate the strain.
When strain exists, the child almost invariably begins to do poor school work. As the tension arises from a mental strain, it is obvious that his mind is not at its peak efficiency for learning.
At periodical intervals set up a test chart and have your child read it, first with one eye covered, then with the other, to check for yourself his vision. Then, don’t dismiss the subject. Keep his vision normal!
Teach your child the value of good sight, how he should use his eyes on all occasions, make him eye-conscious, so he will detect anything abnormal at the start. The parent should always be the source of good pediatric eye care.Your child should then have healthy eyes right through life.
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