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Does Your Child's Back-To-School Checklist Include An Eye Exam?
Here we are already, mid-September. Pencils have been sharpened, binders stocked with paper and new shoes purchased, but did your child also receive a complete visual assessment as part of his/her back-to-school checklist? Since 80% of everything learned in the classroom comes through the visual system, checking a child's vision is imperative to ensure they enjoy a successful school year. 
Statistics show that 1 in 4 school-aged children in Canada has a vision problem significant enough to impact their school performance, but only half of children are having regular eye examinations. This may be because 61% of parents mistakenly believe that they would recognize if their child had a vision problem. But since children are often unaware of how they "should" be seeing, their symptoms go unmentioned and the vision problem worsens. Parents may also skip the visit to the optometry office in lieu of signing their child up for the school's vision screening program, however, these screenings, which test only the basic components of vision, detect only 20-30% of vision problems in schools. These vision screening exams give insight into only one small part of the visual system - acuity - and miss other major contributors to an efficient visual system including how the eyes track (move across a page during reading for example) and focus together as a team. Deficits in these areas (which are not routinely checked in school vision screenings) can lead to:
  • Difficulty reading (skipping words or lines, substituting words)
  • Low reading comprehension
  • Poorly spaced, messy handwriting
  • Poor concentration and attention
  • Letter and number reversals 
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
 Without efficient visual skills, including acuity, tracking, teaming and focusing, a child will likely struggle academically. Sadly, 60% of children with literacy difficulty have an undiagnosed vision problem. All too often, these individuals are diagnosed with a learning disability and then receive special resources in the classroom, instead of solving the underlying vision issue. These resources are often implemented throughout the child's entire school career. This can take a toll on the child's self esteem and future success - the label of having a "learning disability" can be a heavy one for a child to bear. Out of those children diagnosed with a learning disability, 75% have their biggest deficit in reading, and 80% of those individuals have difficulties with at least one basic visual skill. If children with primarily vision related problems were diagnosed and treated sooner, the number of individuals being diagnosed with learning disabilities would decline. 
When considering a back-to-school eye examination for your child, keep in mind the following points:
  • Advancing in grade levels increases eye strain. As children enter higher grades, the demands made upon their visual system increase. Print becomes smaller, and the length of time reading and using a computer increases. A child who has a vision problem and was able to manage the academic demands in lower grades, may not be able to cope with the visual stress, and learning-related concerns may arise. All of a sudden you may notice your straight-A student falling behind in reading, struggling to concentrate in the classroom and becoming discouraged and frustrated with homework. By taking your child to have a thorough visual assessment completed before entering school each year, you will be able to address any vision problems before they manifest.
  • Early detection is key. Vision develops very rapidly after birth and any undetected vision problem can have a significant impact on infant and child development. When there is a delay in visual skills development, intervening as early as possible is critical to avoid further problems. We recommend children have their first eye exam at 6 months of age, then at age 3 and then every year afterwards. Remember, all children in Ontario under the age of 20 are covered by OHIP for their annual eye exams. And junior kindergarten students are eligible through the EyeSee EyeLearn program (run by the Ontario Association of Optometrists) to receive a a complimentary pair of frames/lenses if they are found to require glasses.
In order to assess the 17 (yes, 17!!) visual skills that are necessary for an efficient and effective visual system (which will allow for efficient learning to take place), your child should have a comprehensive eye examination done by a developmental optometrist. These specialized optometrists are trained to perform a functional vision examination that includes an assessment of visual information processing, binocular function, visual motor integration, and an assessment of their eye health. Based on the results, the optometrist is able to identify and recommend the necessary treatment for any vision-related learning problems that are uncovered. Treatment options may include glasses and/or vision therapy.
Please contact our office to book your child in for an eye examination this fall so we can ensure he/she will reach his/her full learning potential this school year!
Is an eye examination on your child's back-to-school checklist?
*Click above to watch video*
Congratulations to COVT&R for hosting their 2nd Annual General meeting last month in Montreal. It was a wonderful celebration of vision therapy and optometry as well as a great learning experience for the attendees. Approximately 180 optometrists from North America, Europe, the UK and Australia were in attendance. And 36 vision therapists completed their oral examinations and thus graduated from the PVTAP (Practical Vision Therapy Accreditation Program) - congratulations!
You can check out the press release for the event here. Planning is already underway for next year's event!
Copyright © 2017 Halton Vision Therapy Center, All rights reserved.

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