As a parent, you may wonder whether your child has a vision problem or when their first eye exam should be scheduled.
Eye exams for children are extremely important. Experts say 5 to 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child's vision problem is crucial because, if left untreated, some childhood vision problems can cause permanent vision loss.
When should kids have their eyes examined?
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 to 9 months of age. At Petrolia Optometry we recommend that all children should then receive a comprehensive eye exam once a year until age 20. The eye exams are covered by OHIP once a year.
How an eye exam is conducted will depend on your child's age, but a pediatric eye exam generally involves:
- a case history
- vision testing determination of whether eyeglasses are needed
- testing of eye alignment
- an eye health examination and
- a consultation with you regarding the findings
In order to perform an eye examination your child does not need to be able to read, know their letters or even talk. Your optometrist has a wide variety of tests and techniques that can be employed to complete an exam on a patient of any age and ability.
How to prepare for my child’s eye exam
When scheduling an eye exam, choose a time when your child is usually alert and happy. Be sure to bring with you your child’s valid OHIP card, extended health insurance plan documents, a list of any medications they may take, any prescription glasses or contact lenses that they may wear, and (for the littlest ones) a snack or a bottle or a small toy to keep them occupied.
Please be aware that children perform best during their eye exam when they attend their eye exam without their siblings, so please plan to bring extra adult helpers with you if you are attending with more than one child or having an eye exam yourself.
When you arrive for their appointment, you will be asked to update all personal information for each child in the comfort and privacy of our patient interview room. This will include verifying the name of their school, what grade they are in, the names their legal guardians, alternate phone numbers to contact, etc.
Their eye doctor may also ask about the patient’s birth history (i.e. born premature?), allergies, history of eye surgery, vision training, patching therapy, motor development, learning difficulties, or a family history of eye problems.
Be sure to tell the doctor if your child engages in frequent eye rubbing, blinks excessively, fails to maintain eye contact, cannot seem to maintain a gaze (fixation) while looking at objects, has poor eye tracking skills or has failed a pediatrician or pre- school vision screening.
Please note: information about a child’s eye exam can only be communicated to a patient’s legal guardians. For patients age 18 or older, we cannot communicate any information to their parents unless we have consent from the patient.
Eye and vision problems that affect children
Besides looking for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism (refractive errors), your eye doctor will be examining your child's eyes for signs of these eye and vision problems commonly found in young children:
Amblyopia: decreased vision in one or both eyes due to the improper development of connections within the brain caused by blurry vision (usually strabismus or refractive error or both)
Strabismus: a misalignment of the eyes, often caused by a congenital defect in the positioning or strength of muscles that are attached to the eye and which control eye positioning and movement
Convergence insufficiency: the inability to keep the eye comfortably aligned for reading and other near tasks
Focusing problems: difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back again (accommodative infacility) or problems maintaining adequate focus for reading (accommodative insufficiency
Binocular vision problems: deficiencies in “eye teaming” skills, more subtle than strabismus, that can cause problems with depth perception and coordination
Colour vision deficiencies: the inability to distinguish between certain pairs of colours
Vision and learning
Experts say that 80% of what your child learns in school is presented visually. Undetected vision problems can put them at a significant disadvantage. In fact, 60% of children with learning difficulties have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Because vision is crucial to learning, the Eye See…Eye Learn Program for Junior Kindergarten students was introduced in Ontario (2012 in Lambton and Kent County).
See more about the Eye See…Eye Learn program here. Petrolia Optometry is one of only four optometry practices in Lambton and Kent County that participates in this program. This program cannot be accessed through a retail optical store.