Some tips for developing good eyesight

Here are the top 7 steps you can use to make sure your children develop both good eyesight and the visual skills needed for speed reading excellence while using the computer.

Learn the difference between "eyesight" and "vision". Eyesight is the ability to "see" that most children are born with. Vision is the ability to organize, interpret and understand what is seen. Vision is developed and LEARNED like walking and talking. Your children need both good "eyesight" and good "vision" in order to be excellent readers.

Donít assume that 20/20 eyesight means that your children see the printed page or computer screen the same way you do. 20/20 is a distance sight indicator and simply means that your children can see a certain size letter from 20 feet away. It is not at all related to reading at near point. Have each of your children read aloud to you often to insure that what they see on the printed page and computer screen is the same thing you are seeing.

Good vision means that your children use both eyes as a team to track smoothly from line to line, see at far and near, copy from a book to paper, keep letters in proper order and much more. Some children with perfect eyesight still tell me they see letters moving around or jumping. Still others suffer because they reverse the order of the letters that they see. Any weak link in the visual process can affect reading, especially if the visual memory is under stress due to excessive computer, TV or hand-held computer use.

The American Optometric Association recommends a comprehensive vision screening by age 6 months, at 3 years and then again at age 5. This is an absolute must for early detection and prevention of eye problems that affect reading significantly. Ask for both near- and far-point screening as well as a learning related screening. Look for a developmental or behavioral optometrist in your area who specializes in these screenings.

Train your children to look up from the computer and focus on something in the distance every few minutes. Check to see whether their head is too close to the screen. The first one will strengthen their visual skills; the last will indicate if an eye exam is needed.

Get your children outside and have them play catch, ride a bike and participate in sports. This strengthens crucial reading abilities such as tracking, peripheral vision, focusing, eye teaming, eye-hand coordination and improves near- and far-point vision. Many of these skills are not typically learned during sustained computer use and they are essential for both computer use and reading.

Limit computer use for all your children, especially those under three years of age. Children under three learn through their whole bodies and too much time on the computer limits the developmental skills they need to master at this time: crawling, walking, talking, spatial awareness, tracking, focusing, etc.

Take frequent breaks from the computer. For every 45 minutes of use, older children should take a break from the computer for 20 minutes. Younger children should take a take a 10-minute break about every half hour. You may want to set a timer.