Most parents are good at taking their kids to the Doctor’s office yearly for their annual physical, and to the Dentist’s for their cleaning and checkups. But often when I tell parents that their kids eyes should be tested yearly, they are shocked at this news. They tell me they didn’t know and often feel badly that they’ve been neglecting to get their children’s eyes examined.

In fact, the Canadian Association of Optometry recommends the first visual screening at 6 months of age. This first check up is generally a very quick visit to ensure that the eyes and vision are A OK. At 6 month, kids are not able to communicate yet and visual problems (unless very visible) would go undetected by many parents and pediatricians. As an Optometrist, at 6 months we can deduce from a quick eye exam whether or not there are any gross abnormalities. After a brief history about the child and their family history of any eye conditions, we start by shining some lights in their eyes. By assessing the way light reflects back from the eye, an Optometrist can deduce whether or not a child has a lazy or or an eye turn, and if there is any need for prescription lenses. We also check on how the eyes move, whether or not the eyes move together properly and how the child is able to focus. Finally, we end the exam with a quick peek into the eyes to check the health of the eye. So starting at 6 months, every child should have a quick 5-10 minute appointment just to make sure everything is developing correctly.

After 6 months, it is recommended that each and every child get their eyes check yearly. I personally recommend a checkup between 18 and 24 months. At this appointment, often kids can look at the pictures on the eye chart and we can get them more comfortable with coming to see the Optometrist. Although it is almost impossible to complete a full eye exam, much can be learned about a child’s eye’s at this age.

After 3 years of age, every child should get their eye’s checked annually up until they are 19 years of age. Manitoba health believes children eye exams are so critical that each child with MHSC coverage is eligible for a free eye exam each calendar year until 19 years of age.

This is because 80% of learning is dependent upon sight. For a child to reach their full potential in school, socially and at play, it is integral that their vision is taken care of. Because most vision problems don’t present with easy-to-detect- symptoms, an eye exam is the only way to tell id your child has a problem with their vision.

And now for a few statistics:

1 in 4 school age children has a vision problem.

80% of a child’s learning is obtained through vision. Visual problems can affect learning and development, and can prevent children from reaching their full potential.

Vision occurs in partnership with the brain and the eyes. Children who struggle to read or remain on task may have an undiagnosed visual problem.

So, as the kids have already been back at school for a few weeks, make sure to have their eyes and vision checked so that they do their very best at school, in sports and with their friends this year.

Dr. Benji Itzkow O.D.