Can you see that?

You hear some funny things when working in vision care. Asking a child “Can you see that?” is one of the funnier statements you hear. Funny peculiar, I mean. It’s akin to asking ‘how heavy do you feel’ or ‘how tall do you feel’ or ‘do you have cancer’? The only way to know is to have a professional investigate.

Asking a child ‘Can you see that?” will almost always bring the same response – ‘Yes’, the child will say because a) the person in authority is asking the question, be it the teacher or parent, and the child wants to please, and b) the child will not know exactly what you mean.

A similar question is to ask the child “Can you see better?” when they get new glasses. Again, you cannot know the truth until you put some sort of measurement to it. What’s more, glasses aren’t always intended to make sight clearer so much as make vision easier, for example for the endless hours of near work children are forced to endure at school.

Still, one of the most common means of attempted detection of vision problems is to ask a child if they have a problem with their eyes. Since they have nothing to compare their vision to; in Latin ‘quod est notum est normalis’ – What is known to the child is what is normal for the child. Whatever and however they see is normal and so what problem could there be? A child knows as much about their eyes and vision as they know about how cars work.

“Vision, unlike driving a car, can never be a shared experience. … It is imprudent to check if a child has no issues with vision by simply asking them.”

Vision is like driving a car: If all is working well, you never think of how complex the machine is. Also, you can have someone sit with you in a car, or drive it, and experience what you experience. Vision, unlike driving a car, can never be a shared experience. This leads to many problems for children in school because we cannot know if anything is wrong unless they are seen by a professional who knows how to assess vision and vision problems. It is imprudent to check if a child has no issues with vision by simply asking them.

“All children need to be checked for vision problems by professional eye care providers. Period.”

All children need to be checked for vision problems by professional eye care providers. Period. Reading an eye chart is not sufficient, and it is certainly not sufficient to ask the child if they have ‘trouble seeing’. We would not expect the child to self-diagnose infections, cancer, or diabetes. Why we would assume they can do the same for vision concerns is a matter of education, or the lack thereof. If we allow a child to continue to with unchecked vision then force them to endure hours of schoolwork is a violation of their basic rights. Assuming they have no trouble is a recipe for disaster, especially in school.

 

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