A Matter of Focus: Eyesight Difficulties in Kids


Uncorrected vision can have a huge impact on your child’s quality of life, as well as their future learning potential. If you know that your child’s vision is poor then it’s important you get glasses or even contact lenses from Pinkicon to ensure they can see the world clearly. Here are some of the main vision problems and how technology can be used to help your child see correctly.

In the old days, nearsighted children wore glasses. If they were colour-blind, they had to live with it. If they had trouble reading, they were labelled lazy. Thankfully, we’ve grown wiser, and today our children have more options.

three ways to fight myopia

1 When the eye’s cornea grows too steep, the eye becomes nearsighted (nearsightedness is called myopia). Ortho-keratology reshapes the cornea to focus the light entering the eye. Ortho-k lenses are hard, gas-permeable contact lenses that the child wears at night in order to see during the day. This method means the child can do sports or swim, all with perfect vision and without the hassles of glasses or daytime contact lenses. Research indicates that wearing these lenses slows down the rate at which myopia progresses. The corneal reshaping, however, is temporary:
the child has to wear ortho-k lenses every night to maintain the proper corneal shape.

2 Carl Zeiss myopia control glasses work in two ways: they correct your vision during the day, while at the same time slowing down the progression of myopia with a simple technique called Peripheral Vision Management technology. It corrects for sharp central vision while also moving the peripheral image in front of the retina. Again, research confirms that wearing these glasses slows down the progression of nearsightedness.

3 Special silicone hydrogel contact lenses that control peripheral vision when worn during the day can also achieve similar results to Carl Zeiss peripheral-vision control glasses.

visual stress

Not all reading challenges result from poor vision. However, some children experience visual stress (distortions) when looking at a page of text. The letters swim or move, the print looks blurry, the paper glares. Eyestrain, headaches and reluctance to read will follow. This condition is called Meares-Irlen Syndrome.

Irlen lenses were the first lenses used to correct this syndrome. However, more recently developed cerium precision tinted lenses offer a more precise tint match because every lens is uniquely custom-made for the patient (see sidebar). The effect is greater visual clarity when reading, so the lenses improve fluency, efficiency and concentration. “It usually took me about a year to finish a book,” says Izzy, who has just read a book in three days thanks to cerium precision tinted lenses. “I love reading now.”

colour deficiency

Colour-blind people can actually see different colours, but they struggle to tell some colours apart. Spectacles or contact lenses that correct colour deficiency can help people who are severely colour-deficient see pohutukawa flowers on trees for the first time. Those who are only slightly colour-deficient will notice brighter colours and many more colour shades.

Patients’ comments:

  • “The world becomes a beautiful place when wearing the lenses.”
  • “I could not have dreamed of the difference these glasses have made to my life. From the moment I put them on, my world was fundamentally changed.”
  • “Look Mum, the Walk Man is a different colour to the Don’t-Walk Man!”

sports vision

Vision in sports means more than the ability to read the bottom line of a test chart. It covers dynamic vision (the ability to see a ball moving when you’re standing still, or the ability to see a stationary hurdle when running), visual memory, eye movements (tracking), central peripheral awareness (seeing out of the corner of your eye) and vision reaction time. Specialist Sports Vision Optometrists can assess vision with respect to your sport, providing a range of visual training programmes and corrective lenses.

what can’t we correct yet?

LASIK helped many people see without corrective lenses. We can remedy Meares-Irlen Syndrome, myopia and colour blindness. Is there anything we can’t we solve with science? As it turns out, there is. We can’t as yet correct monochromacy (total colour deficiency), glaucoma or blindness caused by diabetes. Good news, though: stem cell surgery may soon tackle age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.

are you affected by visual stress

People with perfect eyesight, both adults and children, can experience visual stress (distortions). The symptoms include:

  • glare
  • headaches when reading
  • movement/blurring of print
  • eye ache
  • rapid tiring when reading
  • rubbing eyes
  • increased blink rate
  • poor concentration
  • using finger to track the text

are irlen lenses the same as cerium lenses?

No. In the 1980s and early 1990s, optometrists were sceptical of the limited-tint Irlen lenses. That’s when Professor Wilkins invented the Intuitive Colorimeter (100,000 variations of hue and saturation) and ordered a lens manufacturing and tinting company to match each variation with a Cerium/Vistech spectacle lens. At the completion of a double-blind study, Wilkins had proved that colour made a significant improvement in reading when compared to a placebo. His method takes 15 minutes to determine a tint whereas Irlen testing takes 1-3 hours.

what if my child is already using coloured overlays (filters) for reading?

There are 36 variations possible in overlay testing, so the overlays only approximate the correct tint needed. Because the tint is more exact in the cerium lens (100,000 variations), the child’s performance will be better. Also, you cannot write or look up at white boards through an overlay; while the cerium lenses allow the child to read, write, work on a computer and look at the board.

do tinted lenses help dyslexia?

Many dyslexic, dyspraxic and autistic children suffer from visual distortions. Fitting them with tinted lenses will not solve all their problems, but will alleviate the issue of “floating words” .


Axial/Simple Myopia: Sharp vision depends on light rays coming to a focus on the retina, so when they focus in front of the retina, distant objects are blurred. This type of nearsightedness is usually due to an elongated eyeball and often develops between ages 7-12, worsening during the teen years.

Temporary Myopia: Caused by the strain of excessive near-work (reading, computers), it can disappear with adequate relaxation of the eye.

Neuro Myopia: the eyeball’s shape is normal, but the brain cannot interpret the signals from the eye. Often corrected with spectacles.

Yvonne Walus is an education specialist, a senior consultant to Creative Learning Systems in Auckland, and a mother of two primary school children.

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