Healthy eyes and vision are a critical part of kids' development. Their eyes should be examined regularly, as many vision problems and eye diseases can be detected and treated early. School readiness looks at all of the factors that are most important in preparing each child for a successful and productive time at school. However, the most important factors associated with a successful start and continued learning in school relate to a child’s social and emotional health and their vision. Children use all their senses to learn but parents should take note that an uncorrected vision problem can be a barrier to this readiness.
Different kinds of health care professionals offer vision care and the titles can be confusing:
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who provide comprehensive eye care with medicine and surgery. Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who have additional special training to treat kids' eye problems. Optometrists provide services that may be similar to ophthalmologists, but they don't perform surgery. Some optometrists specialize in kids' eye problems. Opticians are specially trained to supply, prepare and dispense optical products through the interpretation of prescriptions.
Parents and early care and education staff cannot always tell when a child has trouble seeing. Observation alone isn’t enough. This is why implementing evidence-based vision screening throughout early childhood is important.
There are three types of evidence-based screening:
• Developmental milestones checklist (for infants under 12 months of age)
• Instrument-based screening for refractive errors
• Optotype-based (picture, letter, or number on an eye chart or card) screening for recognition visual acuity
THE IMPACT OF TV, TABLETS, CELL PHONES
It is not unusual to see children as young as 2.0 - 2.5 years of age playing on a tablet or using a parent’s cell phone to play games. Glasses are available with lenses that protect eyes from blue light emitted from electronic devices. Lenses are also available to relieve eye strain due to spending time reading, doing close work and using hand held devices.
A preschooler's eyes are not ready for prolonged or intense concentration at short distances, but they do enjoy TV. To make TV viewing easier on the eyes, the room should be softly lit, the television placed to avoid glare and the child should sit further away than five times the screen's width, taking periodic breaks from staring at the screen.
Be alert for symptoms that may indicate your child has a visual problem: • Red, itchy or watering eyes • Sensitivity to light • An eye that consistently turns in or out • Squinting, rubbing the eyes, or excessive blinking • Covering or closing one eye • Visible frustration or grimacing • Headaches
Glasses may be the best back-to-school accessory you purchase this September as you prepare your children for classroom success.
Ontario’s Opticians are on the Frontline of Vision Care and urge you to protect your eyes and those of your children as they start or return to school and all other times.