You don’t have to be a pediatric optometrist to know: good vision plays a HUGE role in ensuring that children achieve their greatest potential! Children under the age of 20 years old are covered by OHIP to have one full eye examination per year.
Experts suggest that as much as 80% of a child’s learning comes from visual information. With that in mind, a child who cannot see properly or whose eyes don’t work together, is going to be at a huge disadvantage when it comes to learning, whether that’s during the baby stage learning to walk and grasp objects, or during the school years when learning to read, playing sports, or in social situations. Have a child in Junior Kindergarten? All of our optometrists are participating Eye See… Eye Learn® providers!
When is it appropriate for your child to have an eye examination with a pediatric optometrist?
Children should have their first eye examination with a pediatric optometrist (also known as a Doctor of Optometry) before the age of one, ideally between six and nine months of age. When I tell parents this, I often get a look of disbelief accompanied with, “how do you do an eye exam on a baby?!” Of course with children this young, their eye exam is going to be very different from the eye exam that you might be used to as an adult.
This early examination enables a pediatric optometrist to ensure that your child’s eyes are healthy, aligned, and focusing the way they should be, so that their eyes and vision can develop properly. There are some serious eye conditions with not-so-obvious (if any) symptoms that can affect young children, which can lead to significant and sometimes permanent vision problems if left untreated. Examples of such conditions include amblyopia and congenital cataracts, among others.
If all is normal at this early infant exam, usually we recommend another eye exam during preschool, and then yearly exams throughout the school years. Vision can frequently change as children are growing, and we want to ensure that your child is always seeing to their best ability so that they may achieve their fullest potential both in and out of school.
With all this in mind, however, if you ever have any concerns whatsoever about your child’s eyes, regardless of age or time of last eye exam, you should always bring them in to have their eyes checked by a pediatric optometrist. Children’s eye exams are covered by OHIP until your child turns twenty years old!
What if your child isn’t having any trouble seeing, or hasn’t complained about their vision?
Whenever I meet someone new who has children, I try to recommend that they take their children in for an eye exam, if they haven’t already. Even if they have no problems seeing things; even if they aren’t having problems at school or in other activities.
The thing about kids, is that they typically don’t know what normal vision is. If they’ve always seen a certain way, they assume everyone sees that way. And if they think everyone sees the way they do, why would they complain about it? Also, kids are awesome adapters and quite often, kids who do have vision issues will adapt to their environment so well, that even the people who spend the most time with them, won’t be able to tell there’s a problem.
So seemingly, they function fine. But when we get down to the nitty gritty and measure their vision capabilities, they may not be seeing as well as they should be. Think about it this way: if a child has to put in 100% of their effort into trying to see something, they’re not going to have anything left to try and interpret or understand it, and therefore truly learn it. These children will struggle with learning.
If a vision issue exists, early intervention is key. Younger children respond much better to treatment than older ones; and unfortunately, with some of these conditions, if we don’t identify and start treating soon enough, the correctable vision issue may become a permanent problem.
Having that first eye exam early on, and then having regular, yearly checkups with your pediatric optometrist will ensure that your child is always seeing to the best of their ability, giving them the greatest opportunity to achieve their fullest potential! So pick up the phone and book an appointment for your child today! Give your child a chance at healthy, clear, comfortable vision.