Look into children’s eyesight

By Christine Davis

We’re a month into the school year and parents and teachers may not have noticed that some students are struggling to keep up. The problem for some children may be as simple as a change in vision.

According to a Loblaws Kids Eye Health survey, 32 per cent of Canadian parents with one child between 3 and 17 years of age think their child sees fine. With October being Children’s Vision Month, now may be the time to ensure your child really can see as well as you think.

Michelle Duong, a registered optician with Loblaws, says vision changes can occur without a parent or even the child noticing. “We’ve seen children who have perfect vision one year and experience a big change in their vision the next year with no visible symptoms.” She goes on to explain that some vision concerns can be corrected if detected early, which is why yearly eye exams are so important.

Between those annual exams parents can watch for signs such as having difficulty reading, sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close. Frequent eye rubbing and squinting, closing one eye to read or watch TV and having trouble seeing the board at school are also signs that there might be an issue with a child’s vision. Also look for them avoiding computer or screen time because their eyes hurt, sensitivity to light, frequent headaches and excessive tearing.

Of course a sudden drop in grades and trouble focusing can also be due to eyesight related issues.

The most common eye issues children suffer from include myopia or nearsightedness, which is “when objects that are further away seem blurry.” This is easier for parents to detect than hyperopia or farsightedness, which is when objects that are close look blurry.

“Amblyopia is another common issue we see and that’s when one eye is working harder than the other so you get what’s called a ‘lazy eye’,” says Duong. “In some cases, if this is caught early enough, corrective lenses can be prescribed to a child that will exercise the weaker eye to help make it stronger.”

While annual eye exams are covered by OHIP until the age of 20, the cost of eyeglasses can be a barrier for some families. As such, Loblaws optical departments offer the Kids See Free program, which provides free frames valued up to $49 with single vision, polycarbonate ‘kids safe’ lenses for children aged 4- to 10-years old.