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Sleep, sight are essential for school success

September 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's not uncommon for a child to return to the classroom from summer vacation and things look don't look quite the same. Doctors say vision changes can occur during key stages of a child's development. But that's not the only thing that changes during the summer, bed times also tend to suffer. In bed by 7 p.m. and rise and shine at 6 a.m. Even through summer, that's how parent Jaki Larsen makes sure her four kids stay on track for school. Its advice she gives other parents.

"I say suck it in and let them cry it out," said Larsen. "I'm more strict when it comes to sleeping."

But many families do let their kids' summer sleep schedule slide. Unfortunately, children pay for it when they don't get enough shut-eye.

"They're going to school sleep deprived all day long, they're never truly catching up. And then even if they sleep in on weekends it's not the same," said Dr. Sheela Rao, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital L.A.

Dr. Rao says children under the age of 11 need at least 10 hours of sleep.

She tells parents to have a set routine like a warm bath, a bedtime story and then lights out.

"It's very important for children to at least feel like they have a set schedule," said Dr. Rao.

And if you can add another calming ritual your kids would enjoy, like an after dinner stroll, that would give kids even more incentive.

"I think that the most important thing is that a family figure out what routine can we establish before school starts and try to continue that same routine through school," said Dr. Rao.

Aside from sleep, kids also need clear vision for a successful academic year. Dr. Rao says it's possible for a child's vision to change in a summer.

"A lot of children will have changes in their eye sight as they enter puberty and it's one of the few opportunities that we have to make an intervention that could affect every aspect of their learning," said Dr. Rao.

Pediatricians usually conduct vision screening, but it's good for parents to take advantage of school exams.

The vision center at Children's Hospital L.A. says 80 percent of learning a child does occurs through his eyes.

Doctors say one in four school age children have some type of vision impairment and every child should have a complete eye exam by age three. Many eye conditions such as lazy eye or crossed eyes can be corrected if detected early.


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