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The tell-tale signs your child needs glasses that more than a third of parents miss

Child boy rubbing his eyes. (Getty Images)
Wondering if your child has eyesight problems? (Getty Images)

More than a third (39%) of parents have admitted to overlooking certain behavioural signs that suggested their child was having sight issues, according to a new survey.

Some 40% also never considered their child might need glasses in the first place, with more than one in five (21%) confessing they have never taken their young ones to an opticians.

The study indicates this might be because parents prioritise any other health appointments they need, like the doctor's, the dentist, and vaccinations.

Of the 32% of parents who said their child currently wears glasses (of which nearly four in 10 missed the symptoms for), 97% wish they'd spotted the tell-tale signs earlier.

Happy mother helping her daughter with choosing new eyeglasses at optician store.
Nearly all parents wish they'd spotted the signs their child needed glasses sooner. (Getty Images)

Signs your child might need glasses

The most common behavioursreported by parents with children aged six to 15 that suggest they might be having sight issues, according to the study by Specsavers, include:

  • their child sitting too close to the TV (48%)

  • frequent complaints of headaches (42%)

  • always sitting at the front of their class (37%)

  • delaying bedtime to avoid reading (28%)

With that in mind, Specsavers expert Giles Edmonds outlines the top tell-signs of potential vision problems to look out for in children.

1. 'The Eye Rub Maestro'

"Eye rubbing is a sign of tired eyes at any age. If you notice your child rubbing their eyes while focusing on an object, it could indicate eye strain, which could be due to an uncorrected vision problem."

2. 'The Reading Rebel'

"If your child is reading below their expected level this could be a sign of several vision problems. Children who have issues with their eyesight may also repeat the same line twice, lose their place or use a finger to guide their eyes. Holding books or devices at a distance can support long-term eye health – keeping these items at a length of their knuckle to their elbow is a good guide, as holding them too close can be problematic."

Little girl reading her book and sounding out the words.
If you're child is struggling to read, it could be because of their sight. (Getty Images)

3. 'The Eye Strain Star'

"Sometimes there are physical signs such as straining eyes, closing one eye or holding objects too close or too far away. If kids are straining to see the board at school, they may also get frustrated which can mean they are disruptive in lessons. All these things can indicate problems with vision."

4. 'The Headache Hero'

"Your child might experience more headaches, especially when reading. When you look at objects or screens at close range, the muscles in and around your eyes need to work harder to focus. Over time, these muscles can get sore and tired. Similarly, squinting for a long period may tire the muscles around your eyes, which can lead to headaches."

5. 'The Head Tilter'

"If your child has perfected the art of tilting their head to read a book, it's a sign that they might be hiding issues with their eyesight."

6. 'Close Encounter Enthusiast'

"If your child makes a habit of sitting too close to the TV, this could be a sign that they are struggling to see the details. Sitting too close to the screen could in turn cause additional eye strain."

Todler is very close to the tv watching cartoons with a sandwich in his hand
Children's behaviour can indicate problems with their eyes. (Getty Images)

7. 'The Pirate Poser'

"If your little one is often seen closing one eye when completing tasks, they may be doing this to favour their stronger eye and could highlight an uncorrected vision problem."

8. 'The Teacher’s Pet'

"Sitting at the front of each class to get a good view of the board could be a sign that your child is struggling with their vision."

Eye tests for children

The study also found that on average parents first take their child to the opticians at six, with more than half (56%) going for a routine check-up and nearly a quarter (22%) if they have a family history of eyesight problems. Meanwhile, nearly one in five parents (19%) admit to only going if their child's teacher advised them to.

Specsavers recommends children have their first eye test at three and a half years old. "Poor eyesight can cause learning and behavioural problems. Conditions such as squinting and amblyopia (lazy eye) can be treated more effectively if they are picked up earlier, which could make a huge difference to your child. Lastly, an eye test doesn’t just check vision. It can also detect other underlying health conditions," says Edmonds.

While serious vision problems during childhood are rare, routine eye checks are offered to newborn babies and young children to identify any problems early on, according to the NHS. Free sight tests on the health service are also available at opticians for children under 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.

To find out more about what tests might be carried out, and the causes of eye problems in babies and children, visit the NHS website. If you have any concerns about your child's vision see a GP or go to an opticians.

Watch: Rise in childhood short-sightedness may be linked to pandemic