The child and his vision
25% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 have vision problems that require treatment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In Quebec there are programs for the management of vision care for children.
A few observations
- Over the past 20 years, cases of myopia have doubled. There is also an increasingly early onset of myopia.
- 80% of learning happens through the visual system during the first twelve years of the child.
- 1 child out of 10 in preschool (10%) has a visual or ocular condition that can affect their development and learning.
- Between 20 and 25% of children (1 in 5) in primary school do not have the optimal capacities to ensure their learning and academic success if this problem remains uncorrected.
- Between 2019 and 2021, the School of Sight program examined more than 100,000 children. More than 1 in 3 children have been referred to an optometrist for an eye exam. Of these children referred, 46% needed glasses or orthoptic exercises (visual rehabilitation).
- More generally, 25% of children have visual problems requiring treatment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
- Only 30% of children consult an optometrist on a regular basis. This proportion drops to only 13% if we consider children under 5 years old.
- 61% of Canadian parents mistakenly think they can spot vision problems in their children.
Vision care coverage for children in Quebec
The Régie de l'Assurance Maladie du Québec (RAMQ) covers eye exams for children under the age of 18.
Also, since 2019, the Better Seeing to Succeed program offers a reimbursement of up to $250 for the purchase of glasses or contact lenses. This program concerns children under the age of 18 and is applicable to 2 year.
Over the past two years, approximately 200,000 children have benefited from this programme.
Recommended consultation frequency
The Order of Optometrists of Quebec recommends the frequency of consultation below for children with no signs of problems:
- Around 6 months.
- Around 3 years old.
- Around 4-5 years old, i.e. before starting school.
- Once a year from 6 to 18 years old.
However, if the child has a particular or at-risk visual condition, follow-ups may be more regular and more in-depth tests may be required.
Care from a very young age can reduce the development of amblyopia (lazy eye), abnormal binocular vision (lack of good three-dimensional vision).
From the age of 6, the child's eye examination is similar to that of adults. If a visual problem is discovered, it will be treated with glasses, contact lenses, visual exercises or sometimes medication or surgery if necessary.
Signs to look out for
If your child has one or more of the following symptoms on a recurring basis, do not hesitate to consult an optometrist:
- Squints, has difficulty seeing the board.
- frequent headaches.
- Reading too close.
- Fatigue reading, confuses letters, loses place while reading, follows words with finger.
- Complains of seeing double, closes one eye often.
- Cross-eyed eye.
- Blink often.
- Places the head in an abnormal position during visual tasks.
- Red, watery, itchy, burning eyes.
- Learning difficulties or developmental delay.
Other recommendations from optometrists
When working up-close, or using tablets or screens, make sure to keep a good distance, good lighting and encourage a break every 20 minutes to look for 20 seconds at 20 feet (6m).
In front of the television, remain in a seated position and keep a distance of at least 2 meters from the screen.
In front of the computer, keep a distance of about 55 to 65 cm, depending on the format of the screen.
For close activities (reading, puzzles, crafts), keep a distance of about 30 to 40 cm. Also, it is recommended to take breaks regularly to avoid eye fatigue.
Regarding the use of screens, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends:
- No screen before 2 years.
- Maximum 1 hour per day from 2 to 5 years old.
- Maximum 2 hours per day from 5 to 17 years old.