Eyeing up a sight test is a visionary step forward

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HEADACHES, tiredness and squinting – it could be time to go to the opticians. Star reporter Rachael Clegg hears how a quick eye test has transformed the lives of two Sheffield children.

WHEN Alison Cheetham realised her daughter was struggling to see the blackboard at school, she realised it was time to take action.

Alison, from Intake, has always made sure her children make regular visits to the opticians, bother her daughters – 10-year-old Amber and eight-year-old Paris, wear glasses but only as a result of teachers spotting that something was wrong in the first place.

Alison, 40, said: “Amber has been wearing glasses for three years and problems with her eyesight were initially picked up by her teacher at school when she started struggling to see the blackboard. She also started to get headaches about three or four times a week because she was straining her eyes so much.”

Not only was Amber feeling out of sorts, her school work was suffering too.

“She wasn’t getting all the information she needed in class,” said Alison.

As a result, Amber was referred to the eye clinic at Sheffield Children’s Hospital for a prescription and then to Specsavers at Crystal Peaks. For Amber, the biggest thrill was choosing her own frames.

“Amber’s eyesight is actually improving because she wears her glasses for school and while doing her homework.”

Paris has also been wearing glasses for almost three years after Alison noticed she too was screwing up her eyes and suffering headaches.

“Paris was just six when she started complaining of headaches and was squinting her eyes a lot at the blackboard at school or television at home.”

And, contrary to the belief that wearing glasses leads to bullying, for Paris, wearing glasses has boosted her confidence.

“Wearing glasses has given Paris more confidence at school and she participates more often when asked questions in class. When she puts her glasses on she says she feels more prepared for her work and they are a big part of her school uniform.

“I would definitely advise parents to keep an eye on their child’s eyesight because getting an examination early can make a big difference.”

Alison was also aware of the dangers of ignoring the signs of needing glasses. “I was 18 when I had my eyes tested and got my first pair of glasses. I worked in a sewing factory and struggled seeing the eye of the needle. The optician told my mum my eyesight problems could have been prevented if I’d sought help sooner and that’s why I’m really conscientious about looking after my children’s eyesight. Opticians can also detect much more than vision problems, so it’s a great way of ensuring your child is fit and health in other areas too.

For Gilbert Vasey, director at Specsavers at Crystal Peaks, recognising eyesight problems in children is a huge help to their learning. Research shows that 80 percent of the information we use comes through our eyes – a fact bolstered by the fact that our eyes use as much energy as our legs would after a 50-mile walk without stopping.

But being prescribed glasses doesn’t necessarily eradicate a vision problem, rather, it gives the eyes a rest. “Your eyes will correct themselves if, for example you are long sighted and find it hard to focus, but wearing glasses means they have to work less hard in doing so.”

This, according to Gilbert, means that school and study becomes much easier and less tiring for children. And the signs, according to the Specsavers expert, of needing glasses, include a ‘dull ache’ and squinting eyes when watching TV or looking at a blackboard.

“Other signs – though not necessarily symptoms – include holding a book really close up. But the child may feel comfortable doing this and it may not be to do with his or her sight though it is worth looking out for.”

The NHS pay for all children to have their eyes tested every two years and – if needed – as frequently as every three or six months.

Appointments can be quickly arranged in as little time as one day and most take place after school hours. “We try to steer customers from coming during school hours so it doesn’t interfere with their child’s education.” And all to suffer less from headaches and tiredness during and after school. Even the most obnoxious of children would argue against the opportunity to make school life easier.