Ottawa proclaims October as Children's Vision Month

OTTAWA, Oct. 1, 2013 /CNW/ - The Doctors of Optometry Canada public education program is pleased to announce that Ottawa has recognized October as Children's Vision Month.

Together with local doctors of optometry, Ottawa's proclamation will help raise awareness that children's vision problems affect learning and development, and prevent children from reaching their full potential, says Dr. Paul Geneau, President of The Canadian Association of Optometrists and a spokesperson for the Doctors of Optometry program.

"Parents cannot determine if their children see well, because when a child has a vision problem, they have no point of comparison, so accept the way they see as normal," says Dr. Kirsten North, an Ontario doctor of optometry. "Many parents aren't aware that a comprehensive eye exam can make a real difference in how well their child performs at school."

The need for public awareness is very real. A recent survey by The Canadian Association of Optometrists reports that 61 per cent of Canadian parents mistakenly believe they would know if their child was having difficulty with their eyesight. However, many serious eye conditions do not have obvious symptoms and some eye diseases only show symptoms when the condition is advanced and difficult, or even impossible, to treat. Some conditions like amblyopia or "lazy eye", to be treated successfully, need to be treated when a child is young.

Vision is considered the most important sense for learning. Eighty per cent of what children learn is based on vision. Vision conditions can manifest in school, socially and in play - many children with eye issues can become withdrawn and perform below their potential.

"We want parents to be aware that one in four school-aged children has a vision problem," says Dr. Kirsten North. "We appreciate the Mayor and council of Ottawa helping us educate parents on how vision and eye health problems can be detected and managed at an early age. We want parents to know an optometric eye exam provides the full assurance of vision and eye health."

Doctors of Optometry recommend infants have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school to ensure optimal vision and development.

Children's Vision Month is an initiative of the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the 10 provincial optometric associations, including The Ontario Association of Optometrists.

Children's Vision Month

Key message themes/pillars

Children's Vision Month is centered on school aged children, between ages 3-12.  The content on all platforms will focus on four specific message pillars:

1)     An eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry can assess the quality of a child's  vision and their overall eye health (20/20 vision does not equal healthy eyes)
2)     Parents cannot determine if their children have healthy eyes (Children accept their vision as normal because they don't know any different)
3)     Vision problems affect learning and development and prevent children from reaching their full potential. (Eighty percent of learning is based on vision)
4)     Trust your child's glasses to a Doctor of Optometry.

Key messages

  • Many children's vision problems have no obvious symptoms.  Children may accept their vision problem as normal because they may simply assume everyone sees the way they do. Vision conditions can manifest in school, socially and in play - and may cause children to perform below their potential
    • Fact: A survey reports that 61 per cent of Canadian parents mistakenly believe they would know if their child was having difficulty with their eyesight.
    • Fact: 1 in 4 school-age children has a vision problem.
  • Doctors of Optometry recommend infants have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school to ensure optimal vision and development.
    • Fact: A comprehensive eye exam provides the full assurance of vision and eye health that a simple eye-chart test or a school vision screening cannot.
  • A Doctor of Optometry can determine your child's vision and eye health. Doctors of Optometry diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the eyes and visual system. They also assist in identifying general health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam. From infants to grade-schoolers through to grandparents, Doctors of Optometry not only help ensure quality of vision and eye health, but quality of life.

Backgrounder

Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy, and part of that is ensuring their visual system functions properly for optimal learning and development.

Infants
At birth, your baby can see blurred patterns of light and dark. During their first four months, your child's vision becomes clearer, colour vision begins to develop, and their eyes start to work together. By the time they're six months old, your baby will acquire eye movement control and start to develop eye-hand coordination skills.

Doctors of Optometry recommend that babies have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age, to determine their eyes are healthy, eye movements and alignment are developing properly, and the eyes are focusing together. A number of serious eye conditions exist that can be identified during the first eye exam. If left uncorrected, these conditions can result in serious and potentially uncorrectable vision problems.

Strabismus (crossed eyes) needs to be treated with eyeglasses, contact lenses, prisms, vision therapy and/or surgery. If left untreated, the ignored eye will become unable to function normally and may result in the development of amblyopia (lazy eye). If detected and treated before the age of eight, amblyopia will often resolve completely with vision therapy, eyeglasses and/or patching. But untreated, lazy eye can lead to blindness in the affected eye.

Toddlers and Preschoolers
Visual development continues into the preschool years - depth perception, eye-hand coordination and visualization skills. It's important to remember that your child cannot describe how they're seeing because they have no point of comparison. So the best way to ensure proper visual development is for your child to have a regular eye exam.

The Importance of School-Age Visual Abilities
Parents want their children to do well at school. And since 80 percent of learning is through their eyes, your child's vision is crucial to a good school experience. A school-age child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. For school-age children, several different visual skills must work together so they can see and understand clearly.

  • Clear vision in the distance and up close
  • The ability to maintain focus accurately at any distance
  • Good focusing flexibility to allow rapid change from one distance to another
  • Binocular vision skills, including control of eye position, movement and tracking
  • Peripheral vision and eye-hand coordination
  • Colour vision determination

If any of these visual skills are lacking or impaired, your child will need to work harder and may develop headaches or fatigue. Often, the increased visual demands of schoolwork can make greater demands on a child's visual skills, uncovering a vision problem that was not apparent before school. You can't assume your child has healthy eyes because they have passed a screening test. Children may have one eye that is doing most of the work, hiding the fact that the other eye is not functioning properly.

Symptoms
Although an eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry can assess your child's vision an eye health, be alert for symptoms that could indicate your child has a visual problem. Your child may not realize they have a vision problem - they may simply assume everyone sees the way they do. A vision-related problem may cause any of the symptoms described below:

  • Headaches or irritability
  • Avoidance of near or distance work
  • Covering or rubbing of the eyes
  • Tilting the head or unusual posture
  • Using a finger to maintain place while reading
  • Losing place while reading
  • Omitting or confusing small words when reading
  • Performing below their potential

Frequency of Eye Exams
Doctors of Optometry recommend infants have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school because vision changes can occur rapidly as they grow.

Glasses for Children
Working with your Doctor of Optometry from the initial optometric eye exam to the final eyewear fitting will ensure your child receives accurate, safe and quality manufactured materials that are best suited to their vision and lifestyle needs.

Your child's prescription, provided by your Doctor of Optometry, is only one piece of information that will be used to determine the final composition of, and how well your child sees with, their new eyewear. During the normal process of selecting and being properly fit for new eyeglasses, your Doctor of Optometry will determine a number of things to make sure a child's eyewear is customized to give them clear and comfortable vision while ensuring they look great.

A study found that almost half of eyewear ordered online failed at least one parameter of optical or impact testing.

When choosing their first pair of glasses, it's important that your child likes the style and colour of the frames being selected. A child will be more inclined to wear their glasses every day when they are happy with their appearance.

For a child to keep their new glasses on, the frames do need to provide a comfortable fit. For this reason the frame sizing and selection needs careful attention by an experienced fitter. Children often have small, flat bridges of their nose and since much of the weight of the frame is carried at that point, certain types of frames, often with adjustable nose pads, will be recommended.

The first priority of lens selection for children is safety. Lens materials such as polycarbonate and Trivex carry significant impact resistant qualities in addition to providing UV protection. Your child's prescription may necessitate lens features such as aspheric surfaces or high index materials to keep them thin and light. All lenses should be provided with a very good quality scratch resistant coating and in some cases anti-reflection coatings, although the latter will require frequent cleaning to ensure the maximum benefit and are more of a necessity as the child gets older or the prescription increases.

The delivery of the new glasses is an exciting time for a child. A Doctor of Optometry can make sure that they are fitted well. The frame should be level and properly positioned. They should not slip out of position with head movements and there should not be noticeable red marks on the nose or behind the ears after a few hours of wear.

There is usually an adaptation period for any new pair of glasses. Initially, a child may resist wearing the glasses as he or she may feel that things look a little funny. With continued wear of the glasses, as directed by a Doctor of Optometry, these symptoms should resolve. However, any problems that persist beyond one or two weeks should be reported to a Doctor of Optometry.

About Doctors of Optometry Canada
Doctors of Optometry are a single source for vision, eye-health and eyewear needs. Doctors of Optometry diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the eyes and the visual system, and also assist in identifying general health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam. Doctor of Optometry recommended treatments for patients can include eyeglasses, contact lenses, special low vision aids, eye coordination exercises, drug therapies, or referral to appropriate specialists for advanced medical, surgical or laser treatments.

For more information: visit www.doctorsofoptometry.ca


SOURCE: Canadian Association of Optometrists

For further information:

Media contact: Leslie Laskarin, 613-235-7924, ext. 213, leslie@opto.ca

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