October is Children’s Vision Month, and every year at this time, Optometrists across Canada come together to educate the public about the importance of children’s vision health. One in four children has a vision problem that can interfere with learning and development. Unfortunately vision problems often go undetected. A survey conducted on children’s eye health in 2010 reported that 61% of Canadian parents mistakenly believe they would know if their child was having difficulty with their vision. However, many serious eye conditions do not have obvious symptoms, and some eye diseases only show symptoms when the condition is advanced and difficult to treat. Childhood conditions such as amblyopia, or “lazy eye” need to be addressed when a child is young in order to be treated properly.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 6 and 9 months. Preschool children should undergo at least one eye examination between the ages of 2 – 5 years, and school age children (6- 19 years) should undergo an eye exam annually. However, it is estimated that only 14% of Canadian children under the age of 6 have had an eye exam from a Doctor of Optometry.
Vision is one of the most important components of learning. Up to 80% of what a child learns in school is from information that is presented visually. To do well in school, a child must be able to see well. While vision based skills are most noticeable in the classroom, they may also be apparent in extracurricular activities as well. Watch for signs in the following activities that your child may be experiencing a vision problem:
Sports – Depth perception, wide field of vision, and effective hand-eye coordination are very important when playing sports. Some clues to a vision problem may be consistently hitting the rim of a basketball hoop, or a delayed swing at a baseball.
Reading – good vision is essential for reading. Some clues to watch for are children losing their place while reading, or using a finger to track where they are on a page, or skipping words when reading a sentence.
Watching TV –sitting too close to the TV may be a sign your child has a vision problem. Also, watching the TV while tilting or turning the head to one side, or closing one eye may also be signs of a vision problem.
Computer/Electronic Use – children often spend a lot of time on computers, tablets and other electronics. Avoiding use because of discomfort may be a sign of a larger issue.
Vision affects every aspect of a child’s development, from gross and fine motor skills to language. It impacts a child’s learning, including reading, note taking, participation, and paying attention in class. Frustration with learning, behavior and discipline problems can follow, and even lead to school dropout. The cost of lost vision for children is high and can be long lasting.
We encourage all parents to help their children to see their full potential. In Ontario, eye exams for children age 19 and under are covered by OHIP once every 12 months. Book a comprehensive eye exam with a Doctor of Optometry today.
Dr Alison Laidlaw – Optometrist
435 Stone Road Mall,