Give your child a clear vision of a great school year
by: Erin Chawla
We all want of our kids to do well in school, even if we define success differently.
For some families, success means top marks and glowing report cards, for other families it means a happy child who enjoys going to school. However you define it, school is a huge part of your child’s life and it’s important that kids be provided with the best possible experience there, to keep their love of learning alive.
As you are gearing up for the new school year, what’s one thing you can do to give your student a great start? You can get their vision and hearing checked by a certified Doctor of Optometry and an Audiologist.
For the past few years, I have been the special education expert in my school, meaning that my colleagues came to me with any Special Education related concerns. One of my duties was to help assess students that teachers felt were “at risk” of behavioural or learning concerns and to make a plan to address those concerns. Invariably, my first recommendation was to have thorough vision and hearing tests done.
I can’t tell you the number of times something that looked like a learning problem (inattention, lag in reading skills, inability to complete assignments independently, avoiding seat work, underperforming) turned out to be due to a vision concern.
But doesn’t the school check students’ vision?
Yes, many schools do. However, these are not complete eye exams like the ones performed by a Doctor of Optometry. The vision screening provided at schools is just that, a screening. It may catch a basic vision concern and then recommend you follow up with a Doctor of Optometry, but these screenings also miss many specific problems that go beyond simple 20/20 vision. The only way to really determine what is going on with your child is for him or her to have a complete eye exam.
Sometimes parents will know if their child is having difficulty seeing, but more often than not, they won’t . Children are used to seeing the world the way they see it. If things are blurry, a child will just assume that is the way things look to everyone.
My nephew recently had an eye exam and his mom took him in thinking there was no way he’d have any difficulty, it was just a routine exam. Guess who wears glasses now? He didn’t complain of headaches, he didn’t have trouble with coordination. Some of the symptoms that the Doctor of Optometry pointed out were just things my sister-in-law chalked up to being a nine-year-old boy: he tired quickly when reading and seldom finished a book, after some time on the computer he’d become distracted, and he avoided reading anything that was “too long.”
The symptoms of vision problems are easy to miss, or are often attributed to another cause.
A Doctor of Optometry doesn’t merely check your child’s vision. He or she will also look at eye health and muscle control as it relates to vision. Problems in these two areas often have no symptoms, but if left untreated, they can have very detrimental effects on your child’s vision. As with so many health concerns, early detection of eye problems gives the greatest possibility of treatment.
Convinced? Here are the steps you now need to take:
1. Find a Doctor of Optometry.
Check out the Doctors of Optometry website to find a doctor near you, then call and book an appointment. In many provinces, annual eye exams for kids are covered, so it may not even cost you.
2. Prepare your children for the exam by telling him or her what to expect.
Let your children know that they will be looking at some pictures or letters and that the doctor will shine some light in their eyes. Assure them that it will not hurt and you will be with them the whole time. If your children are anything like the kids in my family, you may want to mention that a Doctor of Optometry doesn’t give needles — that should make the appointment a little more enticing.
3. Show up at the appointment well-prepared.
On the day of the appointment, be sure you have your child’s health card. You may want to bring along a comforting toy, snack, or other distraction to keep any waiting time light and cheery. And that’s all there is to it. Such a simple step that could have such a big impact.
I highly recommend getting your child’s eye exam done before school starts, or at least close to the beginning of the school year. Starting a new school year can be tough on kids — there’s anxiety about new expectations, new teachers, and harder schoolwork. If you can eliminate or correct a potential problem right off the bat, why wouldn’t you?
Keep those eyes healthy so your children can keep enjoying their journey!
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