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Visual Health

Importance of Healthy Vision

Vision has been noted as the “most important sense”. Eighty percent of learning occurs through the eyes. Through vision, children develop hand-eye coordination, depth perception and visual skills that influence their overall healthy growth and development.

To find out more on children’s eye health, visit www.optom.on.ca.

Does Your Child Have a Vision Problem?

Children with vision problems may not show any signs. In fact, vision problems may be mistaken for attention or learning difficulties.

However, some signs may exist. Be alert for signs and symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision problem:

  • Turning or tilting the head
  • Avoiding books and television
  • Holding objects too close
  • Irritability or short attention span
  • Covering or closing one eye
  • A lack of concentration
  • Squinting, rubbing the eyes, or excessive blinking
  • An eye that consistently turns in or out
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red, itchy or watering eyes
  • Using a finger to maintain place while reading
  • Omitting or confusing small words when reading
  • Performing below their potential
  • Visible frustration or grimacing
  • Headaches

The only way to know for sure if your child has a vision problem is to book regular comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist.

If problems are found early, many conditions can be treated with better outcomes.

To find out more on children’s eye health, visit www.optom.on.ca.

NEW! Senior Kindergarten Vision Screening Program in Schools

Beginning in Spring 2019 pilot vision screening program for senior kindergarten students at selected schools, offered by trained Health Unit staff. If your school is selected, you will be contacted in February by a letter. There will be 3 non-invasive tests which will take roughly 15 minutes per child. All children screened will receive a letter with the screening results to bring home.

Vision screening is free and does not replace a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor (Optometrist or Ophthalmologist). A valid OHIP card will cover the cost of an eye exam once every 12 months for children aged 0–19.

It is estimated that over half of all students will ‘fail’ the screen and be flagged as potentially having eye problems. Children who fail the vision screening will receive individual referral and follow-up to receive a comprehensive eye exam through an Optometrist.

Children who ‘pass’ the vision screening (i.e. are not flagged as potentially having eye problems) will receive a letter with a recommendation for a comprehensive eye exam through an Optometrist, with no individual referral or follow-up. It is estimated that screening will miss 2% of children with eye problems.

If you do not want your child to be screened at school please call the Health Unit to have him/her excluded at 1-800-660-5853.

Screening Tests used:

  • Visual acuity chart with crowding bars is a vision test that tests visual acuity, otherwise known as the sharpness of one’s eyesight/clarity of vision.
  • Visual acuity is expressed as a fraction, such as 20/20.
  • The results will be a pass if the child correctly identifies 20/32 for both eyes.
  • A vision test designed to detect reduced stereopsis.
  • Steroacuity is the ability to visually recognize depth based on differences in the images presented to the two eyes.
  • In each test booklet, the left-hand page shows two-dimensional black-and-white silhouettes of two sets (panels) of four test shapes. While wearing Stereoglasses the child must correctly identify at least two of the three shapes at each disparity level.
  • The results will be a pass if the child correctly identifies at least 2 of the 3 test shapes at 60 arcsec.
  • The autorefractor is a lightweight, portable, handheld screening device that is easy to administer and is objective, thereby eliminating the need for the child to respond. It automatically screens for, and can identify the presence and size of refractive errors.

Please see our Question and Answer vision in schools fact sheet for more information.

Should My Child Opt Out of Vision Screening in the Schools If They Already Wear Glasses?

The answer is ‘no’, we will perform 2/3 screening tests while the child is wearing their glasses. Screening may identify children with outdated prescriptions, or children who may need to see an optometrist for a new, or worsening conditions.

What Are Some Important Vision Problems in Children?

The most important vision problems in children are:

  • Strabismus
    • Unaligned eyes; can cause amblyopia and double vision
    • Typically develops by age 4
    • Affects ~5% of young children
    • Can be treated by Ophthalmologists
  • Amblyopia
    • Complete vision loss in one eye, due to strabismus and other causes
    • Due to vision being abnormal in the affected eye during a critical period (up to ages 4–6)
    • Treatment becomes much more difficult with age, and is most effective before age 7
    • Affects ~5% of young children
    • Can be prevented with early detection of vision problems
  • Refractive problems
    • Near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism
    • Far-sightedness is more common in infancy and childhood, and near-sightedness becomes more common with age and is especially common with puberty
    • Eye strain (spending too much time looking at close objects, such as books and screen time) may increase the risk of near-sightedness
    • Among young children, around 10% are too far-sighted to comfortably read a book, and around 1% are too near-sighted to see a blackboard
    • Can be treated using eye glasses

Booking a Comprehensive Eye Exam

An optometrist is a one-stop destination for all things eye health related, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, health information and eyewear products.

To find an optometrist near you, visit www.optom.on.ca.

OHIP Covered Exams

Comprehensive eye exams and any required follow-up visits are covered for children 0–19 years of age with a valid Ontario health card. For more information on OHIP coverage for optometry services, visit www.optom.on.ca.

How often should children have their eyes checked?

Vision changes rapidly as children grow. The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) recommends that children have their eyes examined at 6 months, 3 years and then yearly after starting school. In addition, if you note any of the signs and symptoms indicated above, have your child seen by an optometrist.

Funding Assistance for Children’s Eye Glasses

Eye See Eye Learn Program

The Eye See…Eye Learn® program encourages parents to book a comprehensive eye exam for their junior kindergarten child with a local, participating optometrist. The eye exam is covered by OHIP. 

If a child needs glasses, they will receive a complimentary pair donated by Plastic Plus, Modern Optical Canada and the participating optometrist. The estimated value of the glasses is over $250.

Participating doctors will have Eye See…Eye Learn doctor next to their name.

Lions Club

Lions Clubs have worked to improve their communities through projects and programs. Each club is unique in how it serves. A Lions Club in or near your community may sponsor a program that provides assistance for the purchase of eyeglasses.

Kids See Free Program

Kids See Free is available all year-round in Loblaw Optical locations. This is available exclusively for children ages 4–10 on any one pair of frames valued up to $49.00 with a single vision polycarbonate “kids safe” lenses (coating extra) Children have to have an eye exam within the last 90 days and have not already taken advantage of this offer in the last 365 days. 

Canadian Council of the Blind

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is a membership-based not-for-profit organization that brings together Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or living with vision loss through chapters within their own local communities to share common interests and social activities.

Ontario Works & Ontario Disability Support Program

To get assistance with the cost of prescription eyeglasses contact your local Ontario Works & Ontario Disability Support Program office and ask for a Vision Care benefit authorization form.

  • Ontario Works – Leeds Grenville (613) 342-3840
  • Ontario Works – Lanark: (613) 257-4330

Schools and School Boards

Some school boards have a foundation that will cover the cost of eyewear. Contact your local school for more information.