As parents, we know our children well, but do you know how well your child can see? October is Children's Vision Month and it's a good reason to pause and think about how our children see the world. It's easy to assume that their vision is perfect, especially when they haven't mentioned otherwise, since children simply believe that everyone sees the way they do.
One in four children in Ontario has a vision problem and when you take into account that fewer than 14 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six have had a comprehensive eye exam before entering school, it's safe to say that we can do more to make children's vision a priority.
I often speak with parents who are very surprised to learn that their child needs glasses after visiting me for the first time. They truly had no idea that their child had a vision problem. In many cases, after their children get glasses they go on to perform better in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. The reason is that vision is integral to a child's development. In fact, research shows that 80 per cent of all learning is visual. Yet in Canada, an estimated 16 per cent of school-aged children have a vision problem significant enough to impair their ability to learn and affect their hand-eye coordination, making physical activities more difficult and potentially affecting their social development.
A vision-related problem may cause some of the symptoms described below:
- headaches or irritability
- avoidance of near or distance work
- covering or rubbing of the eyes
- squinting or excessive blinking
- tilting of the head or unusual posture
- using a finger to maintain place while reading
- losing place while reading
- omitting or confusing words when reading
- performing below their potential
So how well can your child see? The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) recommends that all children receive their first eye exam between six and nine months of age; at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five; and yearly after starting school. The cost of a children's eye exam in Ontario? There isn't one. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers annual eye exams up to age 19. Children entering junior kindergarten qualify for the Eye See...Eye Learn®program, where kids not only receive an eye exam covered by OHIP, but get a complimentary pair of glasses if they need them.
To learn more about your child's eye health or to book an eye exam for your family, visit a local optometrist near you.
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