With approximately one in five Australian children suffering from an undetected vision problem[ii], as they start a new school year it's important to make sure an eye examination is one of the first tests they do this year.
Eye disease is not discriminatory. It will affect students at public and private schools; can onset before a child starts primary school, or develop in high school. This makes it crucial for parents and teachers to be aware of the possible signs of a vision problem to give every child the best chance of reaching their full potential.
Yet recent Medicare statistics have shown a decline in the per capita use of initial optometric services by children despite their need for good vision to ensure they are ready to learn.
Optometry Australia's resident optometrist Luke Arundel warns that while some signs of vision problems are obvious, others are hard to identify, and children themselves often can't tell there is anything wrong as they assume everyone sees the world as they do.
'Undetected vision problems can seriously impact a child's educational, physical and social development".
'This makes it critical for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school, as part of their general health regime," Mr Arundel said.
Early intervention for children can prevent bigger problems developing, and help avoid vision issues that could impair eyesight for life. In many cases simple eye exercises rather than glasses are used to improve things such as how the eye muscles focus on images or work effectively together as a team.
Optometry Australia advocates good vision for life and encourages parents and teachers to be vigilant when it comes to children's eye health.
Some signs of vision problems in children can include:
Difficulty reading, such as skipping and confusing words, and holding a book very close while reading
Complaints of headaches and blurred or double vision
Squinting or having difficulty recognising things or people in the distance
One eye turning in or out while the other points straight ahead
Noticeable tilting or turning of the head when the child is looking at something
Frequent blinking or rubbing of the eyes
Red or watery eyes
Around 12 million Australians, or half the population, have long-term eye conditions and a 2015 survey[iii] uncovered that, despite 86 per cent of Australians ranking loss of sight as their number one health concern, more than half (53 per cent) admit they would not get their eyes tested if their GP recommended it.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometry.org.au