Back-to-school has become very commercialized over the years, so it's easy to forget the things that really matter when it comes to preparing our kids for a new school year - like an eye exam!
It is recommended that all children get an eye exam from a Doctor of Optometry before starting school for the first time, and every year after that, as kids’ eyes continue to develop and change as they grow. But, if you're a bit behind schedule, don't worry - better late than never, so make that appointment now.
Knowing my own (pre-LASIK) eyesight, I took my daughter for her first eye exam at three years old, and we've continued every year since. The funny thing is, she would go every summer *hoping* to be prescribed glasses, and actually enjoyed wearing fashion glasses until last year, when at the age of seven, her turn for real specs finally arrived. (Oh, how I wish glasses were cool when I was little!)
As a teacher, I clearly see (no pun intended) the importance of eye exams for young children. Did you know that one in four school-age children has a vision problem, and that 80% of a child’s learning and development is done visually? Vision is about much more than how clearly a child sees, and many visual impediments show no overt signs. A child won’t tell you they have a visual impediment because to them their vision is normal. Since we are visual beings, problems with vision can appear in many forms other than learning problems and squinty eyes: Vision affects speech, coordination, attention and emotions.
According to Doctors of Optometry Canada, many children are misdiagnosed with learning or behavioural problems (like ADHD) when in reality they have vision problems. As well, one in six school-age children who experiences reading difficulties actually has a correctable vision problem. So much stress and worry could be avoided by a visit to a Doctor of Optometry.
Sometimes, of course, kids have true academic problems like dyslexia, but I've found that when the parent or teacher feels there may be a learning or attention issue, one of the first things the school will suggest is to get an eye exam. It's best to be up-to-date so that the assessment process isn't delayed.
In my grade 2/3 classroom, I find parents are usually on top of eye exams (and/or my amazing colleagues in Kindergarten and Grade 1 have caught issues before they get to me) but I do notice a huge difference when kids don't wear their glasses! Making sure they wear or bring them to school (and know when they should put them on) is also very important.
This video, What are the signs my child may need glasses?, shares some warning signs, but please remember that most serious vision problems are invisible to the untrained eye, and children will nearly never report trouble with vision. For this reason, all children need comprehensive eye exams.
If finances are a worry for you, it's important to know that the majority of provinces cover the cost of children's eye exams. Click here to learn more about coverage in your province. If your child is in JK (year one of kindergarten) several provinces run the Eye See Eye Learn program, which offers an eye exam and a free pair of glasses, if needed.
Provinces offering the Eye See Eye Learn program include: