With the kids back at school, the fall is a great time for awareness about children’s vision. This year, increased awareness is especially important. With COVID around, most of us are spending more time than ever indoors and on a screen.
B.C. health data prior to COVID showed optometrists in B.C. were seeing only approximately 30% of children for annual eye examinations. In the last year, these numbers have unfortunately further decreased by 9-37%. From a public health standpoint, we want these numbers to increase because children are especially susceptible to their environment. Unlike adults, their visual system is still developing. Just like nutrition influences how their bodies function and grow, what we place in front of their eyes and how they use them, influences how their eyes function and grow.
Vision is not just about “20/20”. A comprehensive eye examination will check for how well they see (the “20/20”), their eye health, and how their eyes coordinate together.
The BC Doctors of Optometry launched an awareness campaign in the last year called EyeLearn that highlights why and how vision is important for children. Some interesting facts are that 80% of learning for children involves vision and visual processing, and that 1 in 4 school-age children has an undetected vision problem. Sometimes children are unable to recognize they have a vision problem because they do not know how to see the world any differently. Vision issues can also be misdiagnosed with other attention or developmental problems.
Children have either partial or full coverage under B.C. medical depending on what office you go to. Children can have their first visit to the optometrist between 6-12 months of age, and eye examinations are recommended annually thereafter.
Enhancing a child’s vision can directly enhance their confidence inside and outside of school, improve academic performance and visual processing for coordination in sports, as well as support healthy lifelong learning skills. For more information about children’s vision, including screen time recommendations, you can search online for the BC Doctors of Optometry or the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Dr. Talisa Dennis, OD