What do you think of when you hear the word “bifocals”? If you’re like me, someone age 40+ holding reading material at arm’s length in an effort to focus immediately comes to mind. (I can joke about it, as being over 40, I too wear bifocals.) When it was suggested that my daughter wear bifocals for school I had a temporary moment of panic thinking her vision issues were much more serious than initially thought.
Recently, an article from Children’s Vision Information Network came to my attention, “Bifocals for Children: Stress Relieving Lenses for Help with Reading” and it clearly explains how bifocals can help. Specifically,
“Many children have not developed sufficient control over their focusing systems, the natural lens inside the eye that keeps images clear, especially up close. Some children lack the ability to sustain sufficient focusing over an extended time period, so after a while print begins to blur. Others can’t make fast focusing shifts from one distance to another, like from the board to their desks, so any time they look away, everything is blurry. Some children have a tendency to over focus, and the additional stress causes eyestrain and headaches. If they over focus too much, the additional tension on the visual system can make the eyes to turn too far inward, causing double vision. Finally, near work at school places much more stress on the visual system than distance viewing, and some young children respond by translating the visual stress into physical and emotional symptoms—back and neck tension, headaches, constriction of their perceptual fields and a reduction in their visual space, a tendency to develop nearsightedness, and avoidance of the reading tasks that are causing the physical and visual discomfort.
Prescribing reading glasses effectively treats many of these problems. A convex plus lens relaxes the child’s focusing system, relieving much of the visual stress. In fact, prescribing a low power plus lens is so effective in keeping children’s visual system comfortable during extended close work at school that they are often called “learning lenses.”
My daughter has been wearing bifocals at school for two months (she has reading glasses that she uses at home) and I noticed a difference within a week of her wearing them. Pre-glasses she could barely complete the task of copying notes into her agenda that her teacher had written on the board. This is no longer the case since she’s started using her glasses. She still has issues with focusing (one of several concerns vision therapy will help with), but her glasses definitely make a difference. I can tell when my daughter forgot to put her glasses on at school, just by looking at her daily agenda. (The letters aren’t on the line, and she’s missed words.)
If the optometrist is suggesting bifocals for your child (or you) please give it serious consideration as they can help. In the meantime, be sure to check out Children’s Vision Information Network by the Wichita Vision Development Center for more information about children and bifocals, as well as vision therapy. (They have a great article entitled, “Learning to See: How Vision Develops and what to know if there’s a problem”.)
Also, I have added more helpful links to the Resource section of this blog. Please take a moment to have a look, and if you have other suggestions, be sure to let me know.