School vision screening doesn't make the grade

Undiagnosed vision problems affect children's learning and development

OTTAWA, Oct. 1, 2015 /CNW/ - October is Children's Vision Month and Canadian doctors of optometry are reminding parents to take their children for a yearly eye exam. With 80 per cent of learning based on vision1, an eye exam from a doctor of optometry is the best way to help ensure children achieve optimal learning and development, now and in the future.

"Many children participate in school vision screening programs, which a lot of parents misconstrue as a comprehensive eye exam," says Dr. Mark Kepes, member of the Canadian Association of Optometrist's National Public Education Committee. "It is important to recognize that these screenings are limited procedures, and cannot be used to diagnose many serious eye health or vision problems that can impact your child's ability to perform in school."

While vision screening tests the ability to see clearly at a distance, a comprehensive eye exam looks at all aspects of a child's visual function, including how well the eyes focus up close, how the eyes work together and the overall health of the eyes.

"Because so much of learning and development is tied to vision, early, accurate detection of vision problems is essential," says Dr. Kepes. "Many people are surprised to learn that 60 per cent of children with literacy issues actually have an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem."

Children don't need to be able to read to have an eye exam. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends infants have their first eye examination between six and nine months of age, again between ages two and five and annually thereafter to ensure optimal vision and development.

"Because children's eyes continue to develop and change as they grow, it's important to have their eyes examined at every stage of development," says Dr. Kepes.

In most provinces, annual eye exams for children are covered. You can find an optometrist in your community at

Some eye opening facts about children's vision:

  • Fewer than 14 per cent of children in Canada under age six have had eye examinations.2
  • 61 per cent of Canadian parents mistakenly believe they would know if their child was having difficulty with their eyesight.3 In fact, an eye exam is often the only way to diagnose a vision problem.
  • Children do not need to be able to read to have an eye exam.  Common vision problems such as lazy eye or strabismus (commonly known as crossed eyes) can be detected (and corrected) as early as six months of age, making early detection essential.
  • Studies show that vision screening has high error rates. In fact, 43 per cent of children with vision problems pass a vision screening.4

About Children's Vision Month
Children's Vision Month occurs annually in October and is dedicated to raising awareness of the impact undiagnosed vision problems can have on children's learning and development. It is an initiative of the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the 10 provincial optometric associations.

About Doctors of Optometry
Doctors of optometry are health care specialists trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the eyes, 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 or to find a doctor, visit

Joel Zaba, MD, OD, 2001
2 National Coalition for Vision Health, 2011
3 Leger Marketing, Children's Eye Health Report, July 2010
4 OAO Eye See….Eye Learn (2015). OAO

SOURCE Canadian Association of Optometrists

Video with caption: "If my child has 20/20 vision, do they still need an eye exam?". Video available at:

Image with caption: "1 in 4 school-age children has a vision problem (CNW Group/Canadian Association of Optometrists)". Image available at:

For further information: Media contact: Maddie Davidson, Edelman, 604.623.3007, 604.648. 3418 (direct),

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Canadian Association of Optometrists

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