Each year, fewer than 14 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six have an eye exam before entering school, despite the fact that an estimated one in six  school-aged children has a vision problem.  

Vision problems can impact a child’s learning, physical health and friendships. Also, less obvious and serious eye conditions can go undetected.

While some schools offer testing through private clinics at low, or no, cost, parents can also choose to bring their child to a doctor, optometrist, or audiologist for more involved testing. (An eye examination is covered by OHIP once a year for persons under 20)

With eighty percent of what children know being learned through their eyes, experts says children with poor vision may find it difficult to focus on their work. They may become frustrated and feel less capable than other students, experts say.

According to the College of Optometrists, “Many children who experience academic difficulty may have a visual dysfunction in addition to their primary reading or learning dysfunction. These conditions are treatable.”

Children who lack good basic visual skills often struggle in school unnecessarily, experts say. 'Hidden' vision problems keep them from performing at grade level, yet teachers and parents often fail to make the connection between poor reading and the child's vision, they say.

In the City of Toronto's "Health Effects of Noise" report, Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health in 2001, said, "Studies have suggested that some population groups are at greater risk for harmful effects of noise. These groups include young children. To date there is sufficient scientific evidence that excessive noise exposure can induce hearing impairment, as well as psycho-social effects such as annoyance, stress-related health effects such as cardiovascular disorders, sleep disturbance and decreased school performance."

Facts on Children's Vision

  • About 80 percent (80%) of all babies are born far-sighted. Approximately five percent are born near-sighted, or unable to see objects at a distance clearly. Far-sightedness usually decreases as a child ages (generally normalizing by age 7 or 8). The incidence of near-sightedness, however, grows and is often discovered after school-aged children have trouble reading information on the board.
  • Don't assume your child has good vision because he or she passed a school vision screening. A 20/20 score means only that your child can see at 20 feet what he or she should be able to see at that distance. It does not measure any of the other vision skills needed for learning such as reading, writing, “board work” and using computers. (Canadian Association of Optometrists, American Optometric Association)
  • Children (and adults) should never look directly at the sun – no matter what the weather. Prolonged sun exposure can burn holes in the retina. It’s also important for all family members to wear sunglasses to protest against ultra-violet rays. (Canadian Association of Optometrists)

Tips to Help You with Your Child’s Vision

  • Children should have a complete eye examination by an optometrist before age three and then as recommended by the optometrist, usually every one or two years. (Canadian Association of Optometrics)
  • While some family doctors and pediatricians do partial eye examinations, optometrists and ophthalmologists have special training and equipment to determine if your child is seeing clearly. Optometrists, ophthalmologists, family doctors, and pediatricians can help your child with eye infections and other eye health issues.(Ontario Association of Optometrists)
  • Make sure your child's homework area is evenly lighted and free from glare. During periods of close concentration, have your child take periodic breaks. Rest breaks are also recommended when your child is using a computer or playing video games as eyes can tire. (Canadian Association of Optometrists)

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrics, a thorough eye examination should include:

  • A review of your child's health and vision history;
  • An eye health examination.
  • Tests for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, color perception, lazy eye, crossed-eyes, eye coordination, depth perception and focusing ability.

Facts on Children’s Hearing

  • Every year, more than 2,000 children in Canada are born with a hearing loss, making it one of our country’s most common birth defects which can be identified via screening. (The Hearing Foundation of Canada)
  • The Ministry of Education has entered into a contract with The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) to assist the Ministry in creating a more inclusive, barrier-free learning environment for students who are deaf or hard of hearing with a view to improving their educational outcomes. (The Canadian Hearing Society)

Tips to Help You with Your Child’s Hearing

  • Encourage language development: sing, talk and read to your baby. If you have any concerns about your baby's hearing, consult your doctor. (The Hearing Foundation of Canada)
  • Some of the warning signs of hearing damage due to noise exposure include: ringing or buzzing in the ear(s), muffled sounds, and difficulty following conversations. If your child experiences these symptoms, he/she should have their hearing checked by an audiologist. (Canadian Hearing Foundation)
  • Loud sounds and noisy toys can damage your child’s hearing. Generally, if you have to raise your voice above the toy’s noise level to be heard, the sound is too loud. (The Hearing Foundation of Canada)

 

For more on your child's eyesight, check out Children's Vision Information Network. For more information on your child's hearing, go to Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.