Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions from parents. Brought to you by the Alberta Association of Optometrists.
Question: Why is it important that my child have an eye examination before starting school?
Answer: 80% of children in Alberta begin school without a comprehensive eye exam, yet vision problems have been identified as one of the major factors in limiting a child’s ability to learn and succeed. For the first 12 years of a child’s life, 80% of a child’s learning is visual - good grades go hand in hand with good vision!
Question: Must children be able to recognize their ABC's before having an eye examination?
Answer: No, in fact, they do not even have to answer any questions for this "test!" Your optometrist can use shapes, pictures and other child-friendly ways to assess your child’s eye health and vision.
Question: At what age should my child have a complete eye examination?
Answer: The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that children have their first eye exam at 6 months of age, then again at the ages three and five –WHEN THEY ARE READY TO BEGIN SCHOOL - and then annually while they are in school!
Question: My child has an annual physical with the pediatricion or our family physician. They usually have my child look at an eye chart, so I know my child has 20/20 vision. Why should they have another examination?
Answer: This is probably the biggest misconception about vision and eye health. Do not assume that 20/20 vision means that your child has all the vision skills they need to read, learn and play successfully. A 20/20 vision score only means that your child can see at 20 feet what they should see at 20 feet – it does not relate to any of the vision skills needed for learning and is not a guarantee that your child’s eyes are healthy and disease free.
Question: Can a vision problem affect my child's learning ability?
Answer: Absolutely! Not everyone makes the connection between learning and vision. Many children with vision problems are mistakenly thought to be ‘learning disabled’ or have behavioural challenges. In fact – it is estimated that 60% of student’s identified as having such difficulties have undetected vision problems – and the majority of those 60% of children would have passed a conventional school vision screening test. 20/20 vision does not equal eye health!
Question: How many kindergarten children have vision problems?
Answer: It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 children begin Grade One with an uncorrected or undiagnosed eye health or vision problem.
Question: What vision problems could be detected by an eye examination?
Answer: Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are the most common vision conditions amongst young children. The detection and treatment of lazy eyes and crossed eyes in a child’s early years is critical as these conditions become more difficult and sometimes are impossible to correct after the first 10 years of life. Poor visual skill performance is also common among young children, yet largely escapes detection if only 20/20 vision is being screened for. A comprehensive eye exam is required to determine visual skill performance problems, including: poor co-ordination of the eyes, turned eye, eye-movement defects, below-age level eye-hand co-ordination and focussing difficulties.
Question: Why wouldn't I know if my child has a vision problem?
Answer: Vision and eye health conditions are not always accompanied by recognizable symptoms – even children that are performing well in school may have vision problems that are affecting their ability to reach their FULL potential!
Question: Won't my child tell me if they are having vision problems? Wouldn't they mention headaches or blurry vision?
Answer: Most children rarely complain about blurred vision – they assume that the way their world looks is normal. Many times vision problems are not easily recognizable by parents, children usually compensate by working harder, getting frustrated or avoiding tasks that are uncomfortable.
Question: If my child has a "lazy eye", wouldn't I notice?
Answer: Not always! Many times the misalignment/turning of an eye, that causes a child to develop amblyopia “lazy eye”, is so slight that it is difficult to notice by an untrained eye – a complete eye exam early in your child’s life is the only true way to assure good vision.
Amblyopia fact: Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent loss of sight from amblyopia. Unfortunately, one-half of all cases of amblyopia are not diagnosed until after the age of 5 when it is difficult to correct. Amblyopia is the leading cause of vision loss in people under 40 – more than injuries or any other disease, yet it is almost 100% treatable if caught early enough.
Question: What will it cost to have my child's eyes examined?
Answer: Alberta Health fully covers the cost of eye examinations for all children until they turn 19.