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Eye Health: Firstborn’s better visual skills may mean earlier school success, study shows

By Dr. Dawn Stratton
KyForward columnist

Hopefully you are back into the swing of things with work and school. Speaking of school, I recently read a report that will interest all of the parents who read this column.

In December, the Illinois College of Optometry released a first-of-its-kind study that indicates firstborn children tend to have better eye movement skills than their siblings. These findings may suggest a higher reading readiness prior to entering kindergarten.

The researchers evaluated a small population of Chicago-area children of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Ranging in age from kindergarten to third grade, the children were given comprehensive eye exams including testing of a number of visual skills the summer before they entered kindergarten. Some of the children were examined again the summer prior to entering third grade.

“The superior visual skills of firstborn children ‘may result in early school success and earlier reading,’ when compared with the reading and academic performance of younger siblings,” said Dr. Darrell Schlange of Illinois College of Optometry.

Another finding was that 30 percent of the children developed vision problems between kindergarten and third grade. The doctors say this may be due to added stress on the developing visual system of young children produced by computers, handheld devices and tablets.

I recommend monitoring children’s use of tech time, even for educational purposes, to give visual systems a better chance to develop appropriately.

In addition, try to seek out activities such as coloring, drawing, putting together puzzles and working in activity books to help with the development of better eye movement skills and eye-hand coordination at an early age. I encourage parents to assist their children in performing these activities. And, of course, it’s very important that parents schedule annual eye exams for children beginning in kindergarten to adequately monitor their visual performance.


Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D., is the founder of Stratton Eyes. She is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and earned her Doctor of Optometry in 1994. Based in Lexington, Dr. Stratton is a member of American Optometric Association, the Kentucky Optometric Association, the National Association of Professional Women and the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. She also provides eye exams for patients at the Hope Center, Room at the Inn and The Nest. Visit Stratton-Eyes.com for more information or call 859-245-2020 or email office@strattoneyes.com. You can also find the office on Facebook and on Twitter @StrattonEyes.

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