Whether it's serving healthy meals, encouraging physical activity, or helping with homework, parents are focused on setting their children up for success. Despite those efforts, sometimes children have a hard time at school and find themselves struggling to keep up with their classmates. What a lot of parents don't realize is that an undetected vision problem may be to blame.
Optometrists help detect and treat vision and eye health problems early, allowing children to reach their full learning potential. Here are four reasons why parents should book regular comprehensive eye exams for their children:
1. Eighty per cent of learning is visual. Impaired vision in the classroom can hinder a child's ability to learn and perform. Children may have difficulty seeing the board or absorbing what they read. This coupled with eye strain and headaches can make for a very unpleasant school experience. Undetected and untreated vision problems can also elicit some of the same signs and symptoms that are commonly attributed to issues such as ADHD, dyslexia, and speech problems.
2. Many eye conditions and diseases go undetected. Eye exams are important for charting a child's eye health and ensuring they have the visual skills necessary for learning and development. But did you know they're also key to overall health maintenance? Optometrists are able to look at the structural development of the eye and identify underlying health conditions such as retinoblastoma (the most common type of eye cancer in children) and diabetes.
3. Eye exams are not the same as vision screening or sight tests. Many children participate in vision screening or sight test programs at school, which some parents misinterpret as a comprehensive eye exam. These school-based tests are limited and can't be used to diagnose a vision or eye health problem. Studies have shown that vision screening tests have high error rates — nearly half of children with a problem are able to pass undetected.
4. Children's eye exams are covered by Ontario Health. Ontario Health covers the cost of annual eye exams for children until they turn 19 years old. Optometrists recommend children have their first comprehensive eye exam between six and nine months, their second between the ages of two and five, and one every year after that.
As parents and children choose after-school activities for the year, the Ontario Association of Optometrists is reminding them to keep eye safety in mind. Eye injuries like retinal detachments, ultraviolent light exposure, and foreign objects in the eye can be easily prevented by wearing protective eyewear.
No matter what activities your child is participating in, it's important that they are properly protected. Optometrists can help prescribe and fit children with proper eyewear. Glasses and goggles can also be customized with a prescription if necessary. Here are some options to consider when it comes to protective eyewear:
1. Sport glasses. Whether children are interested in a high-contact or low-contact sport, it's important their eyes are protected from finger pokes, elbow nudges, and flying balls or birdies. Children who play any sport may benefit from protective polycarbonate sport glasses. The polycarbonate material is impact-resistant and blocks out UV rays, making it a safe choice for activities like soccer, basketball, tennis, and badminton.
2. Swimming goggles. Goggles are a must for children who like the water. The chemicals in pool water can wash away the eye's protective tear film, leaving it susceptible to bacteria that causes pink eye. Reduce the risk of infection with properly fitting swimming goggles. Test the fit by pressing the eyepiece around the eyes without pulling the strap around the back of the head. If the goggles stay in place without slipping off, they're a good fit. If they sip off quickly, try a pair with a different sized eyepiece or nose piece.
3. Sunglasses. Any time children are headed outdoors, it is important that sunglasses are worn to block out harmful UV light. Be sure to select quality sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 per cent of UVA and UVB radiation and 75 to 90 per cent of visible light. Sunglasses are just as important in the winter, especially when the harsh sun reflects off of the snow.
4. Safety eyewear. Just as scientists and construction workers wear protective eyewear, children should be protecting their eyes when performing tasks that could result in a foreign object landing in their eye. This includes chemicals, sawdust, and other types of debris. Schools often provide protective eyewear when there is an immediate risk of this nature, but it's best to double check to be safe.
Parents know their children inside and out — they know the age they started talking, exactly how they act when they're upset, and the types of food they just can't stand. But they might not know if their children are struggling to see. Despite a parent's best efforts, it's not always easy to tell if a child has a vision problem.
Children assume that the way they see the world is normal, so they rarely complain about their vision. That's why it's important to pay attention to the top 10 signs that a child may be having a hard time reading, seeing the board, and keeping up with their classmates.
Parents and teachers should keep an eye out for children who:
1. Have a short attention span for their age.
2. Perform below their ability level and struggle with reading, writing, or learning.
3. Lose their place while reading or need to use their finger as a guide.
4. Hold their head close to books or their desk while reading or writing.
5. Avoid or dislike tasks that require detailed work, like playing with Lego or drawing.
6. Experience frequent headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
7. Complain of burning, itching, or blurry eyes.
8. Excessively blink or rub their eyes.
9. Turn or tilt their head to use only one eye, or cover or close one eye.
10. Have eyes that move independently of each other, or eyes that cross or turn in and out.
While these behavioural and physical signs may indicate that your child is struggling to see, many children show no physical symptoms at all. The best way to know for sure is to take them to a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye exam.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam between six and nine months, their second between the ages of two and five, and one every year after that. OHIP covers the cost of annual comprehensive eye exams for children until they turn 19.
During an eye exam, an optometrist will test not only how well the child can see, but also their overall health. An exam can reveal everything from vision impairments like nearsightedness and astigmatism to potentially serious health conditions such as diabetes and some cancers.
With over 30 years experience licensed optician Joe Bushara and his highly experienced team, bring you the latest trends in frames and technologies in lenses from around the world.