Despite our wealth and a robust health care system, vision disorders are a common pediatric health problem in Canada. It is estimated that nearly 25% of school-age children have vision problems. Many preschool and school-age children are not receiving adequate professional eye and vision care. “One of the challenges is that many parents assume they would know if there was a problem and in many cases that simply isn’t true,” said Dr. Paul Geneau, President of the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Children are highly adaptive and they assume that everyone sees the way they do, so even if the problem is impacting their vision they may not indicate any problems, he added.
It has been estimated that only 14% of children under 6 years of age receive professional eye care. The early detection and treatment of eye and vision problems needs to be a major public health goal. An important component of this continuum of care is for all children to receive a comprehensive eye examination before entering school.
Vision affects every aspect of a child’s development, from gross and fine motor skills to language. It also impacts a child’s learning, including reading, note taking, participation and paying attention in class. All of these things can have a tremendous impact on children’s self-esteem. They can become frustrated with learning, behavior and discipline problems can follow and eventually lead to school dropout. The cost of lost vision for children is high and can be long lasting.
During national Children’s Vision Month, the Canadian Association of Optometrists encourages parents to consider the cost of lost vision and make sure their children receive the eye health care they need. Children should visit a visit a doctor of optometry regularly. Optometrists have the technology and education to provide children with a thorough eye exam and in most provinces, this service is free. Keep in mind that many vision problems have no external signs.
For more information on children’s vision, see CAO’s advocacy document, Better Vision for Children.