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Farsighted Children Often Missed in Screenings

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Your child can read road signs half a mile away and has passed every eye test he's ever taken, but he still may need glasses.

Farsighted children (those who can see far away but not up close) are not routinely detected in a regular eye test, and they rarely complain. But their eyesight could lead to reading difficulties, behavior problems or even being misdiagnosed with learning disabilities.

"A farsighted child has to exert more attention to focus," says Russell Crosier, an optometrist in Arlington, Texas. "It's work for those kids to sit and read through a chapter book. Reading is not fun, it's work."

Nearsighted children (who can see up close but not far away) are regularly diagnosed in school eye screenings or discovered by teachers when they can't see the chalkboard.

The breakdown between nearsighted and farsighted kids is thought to be about 50/50, but farsighted youngsters are harder to spot.

"They aren't going to fail a school screening," Crosier says. "Kids are not big complainers. Parents have to be observant. "

So how can a parent identify a kid with an eye problem?

- Eye rubbing. Kids who are getting enough sleep should not be rubbing their eyes or head, Crosier says. Watch her play a hand-held video game. Does she hold it close to her face or far away? Does she rub her eyes or head afterward?

- An eye that turns in or out

- Squinting.

- Using a finger to follow along with the words when they read.

- Lower grades than usual.

Crosier recommends yearly eye exams for youngsters ages 3 to 18. A typical exam will cost $65 to $125. If your child is very small, make sure that the doctor is comfortable seeing young patients.

"Parents should be prepared for a child to be dilated," Crosier says, which means they will have three to eight hours of blurry vision and sensitivity to sunlight.

So don't plan to go swimming, do homework or go to a baseball game afterward.

Parents should explain to a young child before his eyes are dilated that his vision will be blurred because it can be scary.


(c) 2003, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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