Keeping children from wasting their time and their eyes on cartoons and video games is a full-time job to many parents. Researchers at the University of Tennessee, though, have made use of the natural interest that children have in these forms of entertainment to develop a new eye exam for children – it’s a computer-based game/cartoon system that tests children as they engage with it.
Why is an entertainment-based eye exam necessary?
Many eye conditions, lazy eye among them, can only be corrected when they are caught early. Unfortunately, eye conditions can be the hardest to detect in very young children. According to eye care professionals at Lenstore.co.uk, young children have trouble understanding the point of eye exams and seldom cooperate. The system that the researchers at the University of Tennessee have developed neatly gets around this problem. The Dynamic Ocular Evaluation System (DOES) has proven itself effective in holding the interest of young children. At this point, the DOES system can only detect vision problems. The designers behind the system aim to add further tests to provide basic screening for neurological problems like autism and dyslexia, as well.
DOES is an operator-friendly testing system. A parent or school nurse could learn how to use it with a few minutes of guidance. The fact that it’s easy to operate is a major advantage. Very young children aren’t routinely given eye exams or tests for neurological issues. They are only given them when they have obvious problems over the years. By the time their problems come to the notice of a doctor, the age window for effective treatment is long gone. If every school or home has access to an effective testing system that untrained staff are able to administer, these health problems are far less likely to go undetected.
How does DOES work?
A child testing on DOES doesn’t need to prepare with eye dilation or anything uncomfortable. He simply sits at a terminal and either watches a three-minute cartoon or engages in playing a short video game. As he follows the cartoon or video game on the screen, infrared sensors scan his eyes from a distance to check for ocular alignment, responses and refractive problems. Problems like lazy eye or a tendency to crossed eyes are quickly detected.
It can be particularly important to detect the lazy eye and crossed eye conditions in children before they turn 6. It is around this age is that these conditions begin to establish themselves in a permanent way. In the lazy eye condition, for instance, one eye is less capable than the other at following stimuli and returning useful information to the brain. When one eye is consistently seen to be unreliable for years, the brain can cut it off altogether. Once the brain stops recognizing the eye, it can be difficult to get it to recognize it again. Detecting the lazy eye issue by age 6 and training it to get into form is important.
Video games can be a good way to help a child to better eye health
Video games can be very demanding of the senses. To excel at a videogame, a child has to be completely aware of all that goes on in it. If a child suffers from lazy eye, for instance, the need to keep up with the game can force the child to try to use both eyes well. Video games can be an excellent way for a child to learn hand-eye coordination, as well.
Jon Carson is passionate about health technology. He enjoys blogging about innovative ways the health industry deals with illnesses and other conditions.