Will Your Child Be Ready For School?

Eye exams often missed on back to school check list, say Ontario optometrists

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Aug. 20, 2012 /CNW/ - New shoes for gym…CHECK, New backpack for books… CHECK, eye exam to read and learn… CHECK. This year don't overlook the most important back to school readiness decision that can help your child cope with the challenges of learning. Ontario's optometrists are encouraging all parents to book their child's eye exam as another school year begins.

Statistics have shown that annually 75 per cent of children between the ages of five and nine have not had their eyes examined by a Doctor of Optometry and a staggering 93 per cent of all children under the age of five have never been tested; despite the fact that annual eye examinations are covered by OHIP for children 19 years of age and under. It is estimated that nearly half of all high school students will also leave high school without ever having an eye exam.

"Children can be labelled as having behavioural or learning disabilities because they are unable to see or focus on the work when all they require is a pair of eyeglasses. Children with undetected vision problems will struggle in school and fall behind their peers. An eye exam can give parents the piece of mind of knowing whether their child can see well or not," says Dr. Sheldon Salaba, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO).

Dr. Karen MacDonald, a Waterloo optometrist and Chair of Children's Vision for the OAO agrees. "Optometrists have child friendly assessments for determining the complete health of a young child's eyes. The exam is thorough so parents will know exactly how their child's eyes are developing and if there are any concerns that require monitoring."

"Many parents, who thought their children could see fine, are shocked when a serious vision problem is diagnosed. Many feel badly and wonder why they didn't notice something earlier. Unfortunately, problems aren't always obvious to a parent or even the child. Children don't have any form of comparison," says Dr.MacDonald.

"I noticed a huge change in my son's behaviour after his eye exam. He wasn't complaining about going to school. He was more interested in me reading with him," says Hamilton parent Jessica Williams. "In talking with his teachers, his behaviour dramatically changed. Every parent should have their child's eyes checked by an optometrist."

Optometrists are most concerned about a condition called amblyopia or lazy eye. Failure to detect this condition at an early age can result in a permanent reduction in a child's vision and limit potential career options requiring good working sight in both eyes.

Starting July 1, children entering Junior Kindergarten in nine Ontario school regions are eligible to participate in the free Eye See…Eye Learn® (ESEL) program that encourages parents to book a comprehensive eye exam with a participating Doctor of Optometry for their JK child. If the child requires glasses, they will receive a pair of high quality, shatter proof and UV protected glasses free of charge courtesy of ESEL partners Jungle Eyewear® and Hoya Vision Care.

The OAO with funding assistance from the Ontario Government is partnering with local school boards, health units, and corporate partners like CNIB to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of vision problems so that every child can see and learn to the best of his or her ability

To find an optometrist or for more information on the Eye See…Eye Learn® program, visit www.eyecareoao.com or call toll free (855) 424-ESEL (3735) for more information.

Doctors of Optometry are university educated and clinically trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the eye and visual system. They provide primary eye care services in the province of Ontario. Founded in 1909, OAO is the voluntary professional organization that represents more than 1,500 optometrists in Ontario.