The landscape of childhood learning differs now from what most practicing optometrists might recall.
One of the biggest changes, says Marie Bodack, O.D., is the increase in “sustained near work” at school.
“We weren’t on iPads or iPhones; we were on the board,” says Dr. Bodack, chief of pediatric primary care at the Southern College of Optometry. “Now children are getting devices and laptops at younger ages, and there is a lot more sustained near work than even 10 years ago.”
This shift has implications for hyperopia, naturally. Small-scale research in Optometry & Vision Science, “Impact of Simulated Hyperopia on Academic-Related Performance in Children,” explores those implications.
Researchers simulated 2.5 diopters of bilateral hyperopia in 15 visually normal children, then measured their performance on a variety of tasks such as the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability, Coding and Symbol Search subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and the Developmental Eye Movement test.
According to the paper, “A significant interaction was also demonstrated between these factors (p < 0.05), with the greatest decrement in performance observed when simulated hyperopia was combined with sustained near work. This combination resulted in performance reductions of between 5 and 24 percent across the range of academic-related measures.”
These results are no surprise to Dr. Bodack. But she notes that the study adds data where it has been sparse—and hopefully sets the stage for larger-scale studies exploring the role of hyperopia. It’s also more evidence pointing to the need for comprehensive vision exams for children, Dr. Bodack says.
“The issues that get noticed often relate to nearsightedness—kids who can’t see the board but can see fine up close,” Dr. Bodack says. “It is often easier for farsighted kids to slip through the cracks of screening.”