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Comprehensive eye exams a must before school starts

Whether at home or in the classroom, learning and vision go hand in hand

As parents and children prepare for the upcoming school year, Alberta optometrists are encouraging parents to add booking a comprehensive eye exam to their to-do list. Regardless of what school looks like in September, vision remains imperative to a child’s learning success. With optometry clinics implementing enhanced safety measures, parents can feel safe when booking an eye appointment for their children.

“A comprehensive eye exam should be part of every student’s back-to-school routine, and this year is no exception. Whether school happens at home or in the classroom, vision and learning always go hand in hand,” said Dr. Ward ZoBell, an optometrist in Ponoka.

“With 80 per cent of learning being visual, vision problems can significantly impact a child’s ability to learn.”

According to the Alberta Association of Optometrists, one in four school-aged children has a vision problem, which can affect proper learning and development if left untreated. Many children with vision problems are often misdiagnosed as having learning or behavioural difficulties such as ADHD or dyslexia.

Dr. ZoBell warns that it’s easy for parents to overlook vision problems among their children, as many symptoms can be difficult to detect without an eye exam.

“Many children accept their vision as normal because they don’t know any better, or because they have one eye doing most of the work, which compensates for poor vision in the other eye,” said ZoBell.

“It’s normal for a return to school to bring previously unsurfaced vision problems to light as schoolwork places greater demands on a child’s visual skills.”

Dr. ZoBell urges parents to proactively book their children a comprehensive eye exam before school starts. A comprehensive eye exam can help detect vision and eye health problems, especially those common in school-aged children, including farsightedness or nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a common eye condition among youth. A study conducted by the Centre for Ocular Research & Education, the University of Waterloo and the Canadian National Institution for the Blind found that myopia impacted 29 per cent of children aged 11 to 13 studied. Myopic children may have difficulty reading the board or seeing images/words on television.

“Myopia is a common vision problem among school-aged children, but the good news is that is can be easily corrected with glasses.

“Like all eye health and vision problems, the sooner a condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.”

Parents are encouraged to speak with their optometrist about Alberta Heath coverage for comprehensive eye exams for children under the age of 19. Clinic staff will also discuss what parents and children can expect from their upcoming visit.

For more information or to find an optometrist near you, visit optometrists.ab.ca.

– Submitted

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