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Child Eye Exams: The importance of getting your child’s eyes examined every school year!

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Quick Facts that every parent should know

• 1 in 4 children have a vision problem that can affect learning

• 80% of learning is based on vision

• Studies have shown that 60% of children identified as “problem learners” have undetected vision problems

Why does my child need a comprehensive eye examination?

Parents take their children routinely to the family doctor for checkups and immunizations. We take our children to the dentist routinely as well. When was the last time your child saw an eye doctor?

Studies show that 86% of Canadian children under the age of six have never had a comprehensive eye exam. Taking your child to an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam is an important investment in your child’s overall health. More than 80% of learning is based on vision!

Simply put poor vision equals poor performance. Undiagnosed vision problems can cause your child to fall behind in school; they may even become withdrawn or disruptive in the classroom. Studies show that children with poor eyesight are often mistaken as learning disabled. One out of six children diagnosed with a learning disability actually has a correctable vision problem.

Common vision problems that can be easily treated with corrective eyewear include near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism. Eye development issues that can be detected by your Optometrist include strabismus and amblyopia. Strabismus (cross eye) occurs when the eye muscles fail to work together. Amblyopia (lazy eye) is when misalignment or focusing issues cause one eye to be dominant and the other to become weak or even blind. Both these eye development issues can be treated better if they are detected as early as possible.

Are vision screenings adequate?
Vision screenings are sometimes performed at school. While they are definitely a good thing, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive eye examination with an Optometrist. Simple vision screenings are not enough to take care of your child’s sight, as they only identify a small portion of vision problems in children.

A recent study by the National Eye Institute found that vision screening missed between 32-63% of vision problems detected by eye examinations. Simple vision screenings also do not check the health of your child’s eyes to ensure there are no underlying eye diseases. Remember that other serious eye health issues can exist even with 20/20 vision.

When should my child have their first eye exam?
A child’s first comprehensive eye examination should be at six months of age, then at age three, and yearly thereafter. An eye exam can be performed even if your child cannot read or does not know their letter or numbers. Optometrists can examine children using pictures, lights, and other child friendly ways that can make their visit to the eye doctor as fun as possible, while still ensuring a thorough vision and eye health check.

Are eye exams covered for children?
MSP provides coverage for child eye exams every year. Most optometry clinics do not charge any additional fees for children exams.

Won’t I know if my child has a vision problem?
Often children don’t know if they should be seeing better and will not report it to their parents. Optometrists routinely detect vision problems in children who do not display any obvious signs or symptoms.

The following are some signs that a parent can watch for that may suggest that their child may be suffering from an eye problem:
• Sitting very close to the TV
• Holding objects too close
• Squinting
• Covering one eye when looking at something
• Avoiding near activities i.e. reading books
• Crossed eye(s)
• Complaints of headaches, blurred vision, or double vision
• Poor coordination, balance, and depth perception
• Tilting of the head on a regular basis
• Has a white pupil
• Excessive blinking or rubbing of the eyes
• Losing place while reading
• Slow reading speed or below average reading comprehension
• Short attention span or lack of concentration when performing visual tasks

Even if your child does not show any of the above signs they should still have their vision and eye health checked yearly.

One of the most important things a parent can do to help their children succeed in school is to take them to an Optometrist for a comprehensive vision and eye health exam. Vision is a crucial component for learning and school work. If your child’s eyesight is impaired they may fall behind in school, avoid doing homework, and even suffer socially or be mistaken as learning disabled. This will ultimately affect the rest of their lives.

Be sure your child receives a comprehensive eye examination every school year. Schedule your child’s eye exam with an Optometrist today!

Written by Avi Sahota

Dr. Avi Sahota is originally from Surrey, BC. Dr. Sahota has completed 8 years of studies in the ocular and health sciences to become an Optometrist. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Further education was undertaken in Oregon at the Pacific University College of Optometry, where he received his Doctor of Optometry degree. He has also been elected to the Beta Kappa Sigma International Optometric Honor Society. He is also a member of BC Doctors of Optometry and the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
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