October is Children’s Vision Month. Has your child had an eye exam lately? Early eye examinations by a doctor of optometry are a vital part of a child’s development. Proper eye care ensures children have normal, healthy vision.
Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador is currently the only province in Canada that does not have a children’s vision care program, therefore it does not provide coverage for routine eye care for children under the provincial health-care system.
It is recommended that children have their first full eye exam between the ages of six to nine months, at two years, before starting kindergarten and annually thereafter. Vision screenings provided by Public Health are not comprehensive and should not replace a full eye examination.
For some children a vision condition is identified far too late and is no longer treatable at all, leaving the child with permanent visual impairment.
Undiagnosed vision conditions will negatively impact a child’s development, education and quality of life. The early detection of childhood vision problems is critical. Many serious eye conditions do not have obvious symptoms and some eye diseases only become apparent when the condition is advanced and difficult to treat. For some children a vision condition is identified far too late and is no longer treatable at all, leaving the child with permanent visual impairment. Approximately 80 per cent of all learning is visual. As many as one in four school-aged children have a vision problem which prevents them from performing their best in school. Often a child who is not reading at grade level requires glasses. Vision difficulties can result in a lack of concentration, inability to focus on tasks, and irritability. Such symptoms can present similarly to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. We often see children who have been misdiagnosed as having a learning or behavioural problem when they have a vision problem.
Ensuring our children have every tool necessary to be healthy and to have success at school includes regular eye examinations by a doctor of optometry. Be sure to schedule an appointment for your child today. Visit www.nlao.oeg to find an eye doctor near you.
Dr. Mark Smith, president
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Optometrists