Comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist are the only way to tell if your child’s eyes are developing properly. Many eye health problems can be treated if they are caught early. For example, a lazy eye can be completely corrected if it is detected and treated early.

Eye exams also make sure your child is able to learn. Children who cannot see the board, focus on a picture or follow words in a book may struggle to achieve their full learning potential. Vision problems can also impact their hand-eye coordination for physical activities and even impact their social development. Almost three-quarters of Ontario’s parents are unaware that vision problems can cause speech difficulties, nearly two-third are unaware that they can lead to developmental delays and half of parents do not realize that a vision problem may be the cause of short attention spans in children.

Undetected and untreated vision problems often cause reading difficulties, and can cause the same signs and symptoms that are commonly attributed to issues such as ADHD, dyslexia and speech problems.

Comprehensive eye exams vs. vision screening

Vision screenings are not a substitute for a comprehensive eye health exam. A vision screening does not assess the entire visual system, including the health of a child’s eyes, so many vision problems can be missed.

Many children participate in vision screening or sight test programs at school, which some parents confuse with a comprehensive eye exam. These tests are limited and cannot be used to diagnose a vision or eye health problem. Studies have shown that vision screening tests have high error rates. Forty-three per cent of children with an eye health problem are able to pass a vision screening.

Eye exams performed by optometrists look at the structural development of the eye and identify any underlying health conditions. Retinoblastoma is the most common type of eye cancer in children, accounting for approximately three per cent of all cancers that occur in children younger than 15 years of age. The disease may show signs as early as six to nine months old. Optometrists also play a role in monitoring children with diabetes, one of the most common chronic diseases among children and youth in Canada. Optometrists look for telltale signs of diabetic retinopathy, which damages the small blood vessels in the retina.

Does my child have a vision problem?

There is only one way to tell if your child has good eye health and vision: by having a yearly comprehensive eye exam. Between eye exams, there are signs and symptoms that you can look for. If you notice any of these symptoms, book an eye exam right away to make sure your child’s eye health and vision are taken care of.

Signs and symptoms:

Does your child have an unusual eye appearance?

  • One eye that looks turned in or out?
  • Bumps, styes, redness, swelling or crusting of eyelids?
  • Drooping eyelid?
  • Haziness or whitish appearance inside the pupil?
  • Frequently watery eyes?

Does your child behave in a way that could suggest a vision problem? 

  • Does not watch or follow an object
  • Touches things to help recognize them
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Closes or covers one eye
  • Squints or frowns when looking far or near
  • Rubs or touches the eyes a lot
  • Blinks more than usual
  • Reacts strongly to light
  • Turns or tilts head when viewing objects
  • Holds objects very close to face
  • Dislikes near tasks
  • Loses interest quickly or becomes irritable with visual activities
  • Has poor depth perception or trouble seeing 3D
  • Trips, falls or bumps into things often
  • Is uncoordinated for play activities and sports

Does your child have difficulties with learning?

  • Has poor posture when reading/writing
  • Has poor handwriting
  • Moves head, loses place, skips lines when reading
  • Uses more effort than normal to complete school work
  • Works hard but is not achieving the expected level at school

Is your child at risk for vision problems?

  • Does a family member have a turned or lazy or blind eye
  • Does a family member have glasses with high power
  • Has any family member had early childhood cataracts or glaucoma
  • Were there complications with the pregnancy or delivery
  • Was your child premature at birth
  • Does your child have a hearing loss
  • Does your child have a health condition that can affect eyes, such as:
    • Juvenile arthritis
    • Cerebral Palsy
    • Down syndrome
    • Autism
    • Attention deficit disorder (ADHD)
    • Developmental delay

Find a participating optometrist near you and book your child’s Eye See…Eye Learn® eye exam.
Participating doctors will have Eye See…Eye Learn doctor next to their name.