Undiagnosed vision problems affect children’s learning and development

October is Children’s Vision Month and Doctors of Optometry Canada are reminding parents to take their children for a yearly eye exam. At school, socially and in play, vision problems can prevent children from reaching their full potential. With 80 per cent of learning based on vision, an eye exam is the best way to help ensure children achieve optimal learning and development.

“A comprehensive eye exam can make a real difference in how well a child performs at school, more so than a simple sight test or school vision screening,” says Dr. Amanda Farley, an optometrist in Vernon. “For school-age children, several different visual skills must work together so they can see and understand clearly.”

One-in-four school-age children has a vision problem and many of these problems have no obvious symptoms, so there is no way for parents to know if their child is the one. Since children have no point of comparison, most accept their vision as normal because they don’t know any differently. As a result, many children with impaired visual skills can become withdrawn and perform below their potential in school. Some children are even misdiagnosed as having a learning disability.

“Research tells us that most parents mistakenly believe that they would know if their child had a vision problem. But with no easy-to-detect symptoms, it is impossible to know without an eye exam.”

Children don’t need to be able to read to have an eye exam. Optometrists recommend infants have their first eye exam between six and nine months old. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school to ensure optimal vision and development.