PARENTING TODAY: Eye exams for kids should be a priority

I remember the day I learned I was going to get my first pair of glasses.

I was about nine years old and my dad took me for my eye test. It was very cool. The final result was that, like him, I was going to need glasses and I’ve worn glasses every day since.

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A study conducted on behalf of the Canadian Association of Optometrists discovered that 83 per cent of B.C. parents are unaware that vision problems can lead to developmental delays and 57 per cent don’t know that vision problems may be the cause of a child’s short attention span.

The study also found that parents place vision problems as a low priority when it comes to children’s health.

I would expect that unlike health problems that show themselves with symptoms such a vomiting or rashes or causing pain, it could simply be that children do not talk about their vision problems.
They simply accept that their world is fuzzy or that they need to squint a lot. It is their reality and they don’t realize that other people have much clearer vision.

“As children head back to school, and all throughout the year, we strongly encourage parents throughout B.C. to keep their child’s eye health a top priority,” says Dr. Amanda Farley, president of BC Doctors of Optometry. “We know that 80 per cent of a child’s learning is achieved through what they can see, so identifying a vision problem early is essential for a child to grow into their full potential.”

It’s important that kids have regular eye exams. “As an optometrist and mother, these statistics are particularly concerning because many common vision problems can imitate symptoms of other childhood development issues including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and speech impediments,” says Farley.

A comprehensive eye exam with a B.C. doctor of optometry is the best way to ensure vision health problems do not go undetected or untreated, such as nearsightedness, improper eye alignment, or reduced vision in one eye due to the eye and brain not working together properly, otherwise known as a lazy eye.  

BC Doctors of Optometry recommends that children have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age, their second between the ages of two and five and every year after starting school, unless instructed otherwise by their optometrist. 

The best place to start is with your family doctor. The information about vision health led me to think about total child health. When kids have regular check-ups, any manner of possible health problems including vision issues can be detected early.

You have lived with your body for 20, 40 or 60 years and you know how it should work. You know when to seek help. Your children have no such yardstick. They just live with the body they have and may not know to tell you about small problems they experience.

We know that good nutrition, healthy sleep habits, exercise and the like go a long way to keeping our kids healthy. But regular physical check-ups need to be part of your annual routine.
Regular check-ups have the added bonus that you and your children get to know your health-care professionals so if there ever is a problem, you feel confident in the advice and treatment you will receive.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author. Read more at parentingtoday.ca.  

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