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Cool for School – Is your child ready?

Preparations for the first day of school are many; uniform, school bag, lunch box, favourite toy or book. All preparation for the adventure and discovery of learning and life at school.

But in this excitement and anticipation, many parents overlook the most important learning system their child has – their eyes and vision.

While your child might have had their immunisations, physical or dental check-ups, what about how well your child processes information once they are in the classroom? Has that been checked? So how do you know your child is really ready for school? And what do you need to do to make sure?


Ensure your child is ready to learn by testing the development of their vision and hearing. In that way, you can expose a removable roadblock that might otherwise interfere with their learning.

It’s reassuring to know that a child’s vision problems can be detected and prevented before affecting their performance at school. A child who has learning-related visual problems can usually be taught to learn better through the use of lenses for near work and optometric visual training. Then these learning tools become as important as the pens, pencils, books and computers they will use throughout their schooling years.


Many children receive a school eye test once they are at school, but unfortunately these tests only detect the most obvious eye defects.

Usually it’s the Snellen wall chart that tests if your child can see letters from a distance. That’s the chart with a large black letter on the first row, two smaller sized letters on the second row and then progressing down the chart to the smallest letters along the bottom row. This test doesn’t measure your child’s abilities to see at near, reading or writing distance -the distance where most learning takes place.

Some eye specialists also test for ‘refractive error’, but that test too does little more than the Snellen test. Vision is a complex process and seeing clearly, measured by the Snellen test, is only part of the process.


Optometrists trained in behavioural Optometry will be able to tell you if your child has problems with:

  • Focus ability
  • Eye coordination
  • Depth perception
  • Eye muscle action
  • Side vision
  • Understanding what your child sees

Behavioural Optometrists identify and remedy the vision problems that are subtle yet serious, before they impact your child’s abilities.


Research and clinical studies reveal the link between academic achievement and visual abilities.

Vision is critical to learning; it’s your child’s most dominant system for getting information. Vision is a mental process; it involves working out where objects are in space, their form, distance and colour, the control of speed and direction of movement. Though once thought to be inherited, these abilities are also learned – they develop and change through life.

Our best learning takes place when we use both of our eyes together, efficiently. Leaming is easier when we combine visual intonation with the information we receive through our other senses such as hearing, touching and moving. So if your eyes aren’t working as a team, for example, the impact on processing information and in turn learning can be dramatic.

To do all of the things required at school – solve maths problems, play ball sports, read and under-stand information – your child needs clear sight… and much more.


Optometric Vision Therapy helps people with visual problems to change the way they see; this helps make learning easier.

There are many case studies documenting the success of Behavioural Optometric treatment for children with leaming related visual problems. Following treatment, children have developed abilities to use their eyes more efficiently and integrate vision with other senses. As a result, they have experienced remarkable improvement at school.

Adults with visually demanding jobs (such as athletes and pilots for example) can confirm the value of visual training to sharpen their perception skills to enhance their performance.

Vision Therapy programs can be tailored to individual needs and problems, and they can be practiced at work and at home. Vision training and lenses can open up a whole new world of achievement and success.



Aiming the eyes, or shifting rapidly from one object to another. For example, reading from word to word on a line.


Following moving objects smoothly and accurately. For example, catching a ball or keeping your place when you or the book you’re reading moves.

Binocular Vision:

Seeing with both eyes and combining the information received through each eye to make one mental picture.

Turning the eyes towards each other to look at near objects, such as words at reading distance, and then maintaining eye alignment comfortably and efficiently over a period of time.


Determining the relative distance between objects by looking at them from two different places (your two eyes) at the same time.

Field of Vision:

The area over which vision is possible. This includes motion, relative position of objects in space, contrast and movement sensitivity in side vision. For example, reading from line to line without getting lost on the page.

Form perception:

Organising and recognising visual sensations and shapes and noticing the similarities and differences.

For example:

  • WAS and SAW
  • THAT and WHAT
  • 12 and 21
  • O and E

Lenses can be prescribed for many reasons and correcting acuity is just one reason. Lenses can be prescribed for near tasks such as reading, crafts, and computer use, making vision easier. They also aid slow or poor focussing, imbalance of the eyes and other visual problems. Lenses help make sight clearer- both near and far- and lenses for near can reduce the stress of reading.


So what is behavioural optometry?

Behavioural Optometry is many things to many people even within the profession. The common links the understanding of vision and how to encourage its development. It tends to be more holistic in its approach as it tries to incorporate the physical, neuro-logical and development aspects of vision.

How is a behavioural optometrist different? Behavioural Optometrists spend years in post-graduate and continuing education to master the complex visual programs that are prescribed to prevent or eliminate visual problems and enhance visual performance.

Not all Optometrists practise behavioural Optometry, which includes neurodevelopmental and functional optometry.


Most initial consultation fees fall under the scope of medical aid paid tariffs. More specific services and Vision Therapy may or may not. It is essential to discuss this with your Behavioural Optometrist prior to commencing any program.

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