Starting school or pre-school is a major event in young children's lives. It also signals the need to ensure that they are physically prepared for all the activities (learning and social) in which they will soon participate. Eye examinations are a vital part of the ABC's (Annual Basic Check-ups) of health care that parents should consider during the developmentally important pre-school and school years.
The Manitoba Association of Optometrists (MAO) recommends that all children have a comprehensive eye examination by age three, and preferably as early as six months, to ensure that any visual development or ocular health problems are detected as early as possible. Because of the significant influence of vision on learning ability, re-examination prior to school entry and annually through the school years is also recommended.
Although some vision problems in children may be obvious, others can be impossible to detect without a comprehensive eye examination.
Sometimes a child who appears to have normal visual function will have only one properly functioning eye - the other not functioning or "lazy" eye may look normal but not be "working". This problem is often very correctable if detected at age three or four, but becomes almost untreatable by age eight or nine.
Even if both eyes focus well, they may not coordinate. A muscle imbalance creates difficulties in alignment of the eyes, which may make near tasks unnecessarily strenuous.
Adjusting focus from far to near is also critical in learning. A child who is unable to maintain focus at near will have difficulties with reading, and may require help. Assistance may be in the form of glasses or vision therapy.
While not as critical as the other listed concerns, about 8% of boys and 0.5% of girls have a colour vision deficiency. It is important to understand the type and severity of the defect.
Although some vision problems in children may be obvious, others can be impossible to detect without a comprehensive eye examination. The standard of visual assessment of young children does not require recognition of letters or developed communication skills, so an optometrist can usually examine your child's eyes without confusing or complicated questions or tests. And it doesn't hurt! Also, the Manitoba Government contributes towards the cost of children's eye examinations once every two calendar years through age 18, and more often as needed if your Optometrist determines further care is needed for medically necessary eye problems.
The Manitoba Association of Optometrists encourages you to bring your child to the optometrist of your choice for this very important pre-school examination. If you haven't already selected a family optometrist, click on the Find an Optometrist link for the names of doctors located near you.