We can all feel the busyness that a new school year brings, and the weather getting cooler, but what you might not know is that October is Children’s Vision Month. Every year at this time, optometrists across Canada come together to educate the public about the importance of children’s vision health.
What is Children’s Vision Month?
In 2010, The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) conducted a survey that revealed 61% of Canadian parents assumed they would know if their school-aged child was having trouble seeing clearly. This overwhelming mistaken belief prompted the CAO to create Children’s Vision Month to help raise awareness of the importance routine vision care for children. Children tend to think everyone sees the same way they do, therefore they are not always likely to detect a vision problem and tell a parent or guardian.
How do undetected and untreated vision disorders affect school-aged children?
In Alberta, 25% of children enter grade 1 with an undiagnosed vision or eye health issue. Since 80% of learning is visual, difficulty in this department can have a major impact on a child’s life. Difficulty seeing can cause problems with social interactions and educational development, resulting in below average academic performance that doesn’t accurately reflect the child’s intellectual capabilities.
Optometrists recommend that children have their first comprehensive eye exam between 6 and 12 months of age, and annually thereafter. It’s important to know that a comprehensive eye exam performed by an optometrist is more thorough than vision screening assessments conducted at school, and that routine and emergency eye exams are covered by Alberta Health Care for all Albertans between 0-19 years of age.
What should my child expect during a comprehensive eye exam?
A routine exam involves measuring your child’s visual capability, either with a conventional eye chart or an alternative method if your child is unable to read the chart, and assessing their eye movement and coordination. Pupillary reactions and the need for glasses is determined, and the health of the eye is examined too. Canadian optometrists are fortunate to have access to advanced technology that helps us to thoroughly assess visual function and health, and increases the probability of detecting eye problems sooner.
For children five years old and older, we recommended that they receive an Optomap retinal scan in addition to their routine exam. This instrument gives us a detailed view of the back of the eye, and is a great way to screen for ocular health problems without having to dilate the pupils.
Eye See Eye Learn
The Eye See Eye Learn (ESEL) program was created by the Alberta Association of Optometrists to help children reach their maximum learning potential. Through the Eye See Eye Learn program, kindergarten students are encouraged to have their vision assessed by an optometrist, a service covered by Alberta Health Care. If a prescription is needed, the Eye See Eye Learn program provides a pair of prescription glasses at no charge. What a great way to ensure that our young Albertans get the best start to learning!
See you soon!