Managing children with myopia in your class

In Australia, one in five school-aged children* experience an eye condition, such as myopia. Myopia, commonly known as short sightedness, can have a significant impact on how a child can learn, act and interact with others at school. We asked Peter Murphy, an optometrist at OPSM, how teachers can manage students with myopia in the classroom..

Healthy Harold is donning specs for the first time to help educate parents and kids on the issue of myopia

Healthy Harold is donning specs for the first time to help educate parents and kids on the issue of myopia

What is myopia?

Myopia is an eye condition where light is focused in front of the retina, resulting in blurred vision. This is also known as short-sighted or nearsighted.

Those affected by the condition will often be able to see clearly at short distances, like their school books and pens in front of them, however, will not be able to see distant objects as clearly, like the smart board from their desk.

How does myopia affect children at school?

Myopia can present a number of challenges for children when at school both inside and outside the classroom, contributing to learning disruptions, delays in development, poor performance both academically as well as athletically and behavioural issues. 

Students who have myopia, particularly those undiagnosed, can experience confusion and misinterpretation of their skills when comparing to other children in the classroom. This can impact a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

Myopia in children can often go unnoticed, as children may not recognise their eyesight is impaired which can hinder their academic progress long term.

For students who are diagnosed with myopia, it is important teachers consider and effectively manage their eye condition to ensure the challenges and consequences mentioned above are mitigated.

What should I look out for in my students?

Is your student moving closer to the board? Avoiding sport or recreational activities that require distance vision? Complaining of sore or tired eyes? Headaches? Squinting? Reduced focus and concentration? Avoiding reading? Shorter attention span?

These are common symptoms of a child with myopia. However, speak to an optometrist for more information.*

What should I do if I think a student in my classroom has myopia?

Myopia is progressive and typically worsens between the ages of 6-17 years. If caught early, the condition can be easily corrected. However, if not, it can lead to further, more serious eye damage in later life.

As such, it is super important for teachers, parents and their children to be taking preventative measures at an early age. If you think a child in your classroom has myopia or another eye condition, raise your concern with their parents and suggest booking an eye check with a local OPSM optometrist.

How can I manage students with myopia in my classroom?

  • Liaise with the parents to confirm the types of glasses, tools and equipment available to assist the child and ensure if you have a clear understanding of the child’s diagnosis
  • Move the student closer to the board or even better give the child the freedom choose a seat that is suitable for them
  • Encourage and allow the student to move or adjust their position as needed
  • When writing on the board or demonstrating an activity verbalise clearly out loud the task to assist with the child’s comprehension of the lesson
  • If possible provide high quality handouts before the lesson so the student can follow along easily and give the student extra time to complete the task
  • When using the board or smartboard avoid writing in bright colours and choose high contrast colours instead
  • When providing directions, don’t use phrases such as “over there” ensure you are overly descriptive of the objects and location the child can identify
  • Unnatural or indoor light increases the risk of developing myopia. Try avoid tasks that involve excessive screen time and adjust the classroom lighting or student’s exposure to natural light where possible
  • It is important for children to minimise excessive unnatural lighting, as such, where feasible, take a lesson outside the classroom.
  • Incorporate interactive tasks the build hand-eye coordination into lessons
  • Modify and physical activities, such as catching, kicking and throwing as needed

*Good Vision For Life, an Optometry Australia initiative