It is the time of year when parents bring their young children to school to register for kindergarten in the fall. They are ready for “real” school now. Parents can do several things to ensure their child’s success in this new adventure.
Many children have difficulty in school because of undetected visual problems. One child in four has a vision problem and one child in five needs glasses. These problems are not always discovered by the school eye chart. Up to 80 percent of such problems slip past this test undetected. Inability to focus, to gauge distance and to follow text on a page, if not discovered early, can interfere the learning especially learning to read. Serious nearsightedness, which makes it difficult for the child to see what is on the blackboard, often goes undetected.
Parents need to be alert since children usually are not aware of inadequate vision. Here are some signs of possible vision problems: avoidance of close work; watery, inflamed eyes indicating an infection or allergy; inability to see distant objects; turning or tilting the head to one side as if trying to clarify an image; excessive clumsiness; holding objects or reading material close to the eyes; rubbing , blinking, squinting and closing one eye to see something close or far away; complaints of headaches or dizziness after doing close-up work.
Failure to correct vision problems could result in permanent impairment. If you have any concerns, consult a pediatric opthalmologist.
Other children have problems in school because of undetected hearing loss. This impairment seems to affect boys more than girls. There are some boys who, although their hearing problems were treated as babies, may be prone to auditory processing problems when they go to school. They cannot screen out conflicting noises and miss much of what is said. This problem often goes undetected because they can hear in a one-on-one situation when the adult looks right at them, but fail to get the message when competing sounds interfere.
Here are some signs to look for in your child. Be concerned if he is not disturbed by loud noises; does not respond when spoken to; uses gestures almost exclusively to establish needs rather than verbalizing and watches adults’ faces intently; looks around the room and his attention wanders while someone is reading to him; often says “huh” or “what” indicating he does not understand; breathes with his mouth open.
When hearing problems go undetected, children have problems in school which are usually attributed to other reasons. These children are restless, have short attention spans, are distracted in groups, and are seldom first to do what the teacher asks. In addition, they are unaware of social conventions like automatically saying, “thank you.”, “I’m sorry”. They grab another child to get his attention rather than saying his name and, in general, are unaware of disturbing others with noises.
Children with undetected hearing loss may not be able to communicate or to use words as effectively as their peers. As a result they may appear to be less intelligent than they really are. When tested, they may do poorly because they do not understand the questions and may guess or say “I don’t know.”
This appears to confirm the hypothesis of limited intelligence. These children often have behavior problems because they are not sure what is expected of them.
If you suspect your child may have a hearing impairment or an auditory processing problem, try to have him evaluated before he goes to kindergarten. It is best to have an otologist who understands children do the assessment.
Children need all systems on GO in order to do well in the crucial primary grades. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a very apt saying since, at this age, the earlier the cure, the greater likelihood that the child will become a successful learner.