Children and Youth Eye Care

Stay focused on your children’s vision and eye health.

How often should your child receive an eye exam once they’re in school?

Once in school, it’s recommended your child have an annual eye exam, as vision can change quickly.

A school-age child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. For school-aged children and youth, several different visual skills must work together so they can see and understand clearly.

Are school vision screenings enough for children and youth?

A vision screening checks vision, but it doesn't check for eye health or measure any of the other vision skills needed for learning such as eye coordination, peripheral awareness, eye/hand coordination, etc. Vision screenings are a useful tool but they shouldn't be a substitute for a complete eye exam.

Alberta eye exam coverage for children and youth

There is Alberta Health coverage towards annual eye exams for children and youth until their 19th birthday.

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Parents, did you know:

  • Each year, less than 14 per cent of children entering Grade 1 have had a comprehensive eye exam.
  • Children with vision problems are often misdiagnosed as having learning or behavioural disabilities.
  • Your optometrist can complete an eye exam even if your child doesn’t know their ABCs. Shapes, pictures and other child-friendly ways to evaluate vision and eye health are used.

Symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision problem

Parents, would you know if your child had a vision problem? Chances are, probably not. Most vision problems have no easy-to-detect symptoms, making it almost impossible to tell if your child has difficulty seeing.

If your child routinely displays one or more of these behaviours, make an appointment with an optometrist now:

  • Loses their place while reading.
  • Avoids close work.
  • Holds reading material closer than normal.
  • Tilts head to use only one eye or closes one eye.
  • Makes reversals when reading or writing.
  • Omits or confuses small words when reading.
  • Performs below potential at school.
  • Rubs eyes frequently or has headaches.

Some simple rules to help look after your child's eyes

  • Ensure homework areas are evenly lit and free from glare.
  • Furniture should be the right size for proper posture.
  • During periods of close concentration (reading, video games, etc.), have your child take periodic breaks.
  • When watching TV, be sure the room has overall soft lighting and the television is free of glare.
  • Watch television from a distance at least five times the width of the screen.
  • Encourage time for exercise and creative play.
  • Teach your child proper eye safety skills (not running with sharp objects, wearing goggles, not shooting projectile toys at faces, etc.).

If your child's eyes need help...

  • After your child's eye exam, glasses, contact lenses or vision therapy may be prescribed.
  • Preventive measures, such as mild prescription lenses to be worn only when doing schoolwork or watching television may also be recommended. These may help relieve stress on your child's eyes.
  • Vision therapy is prescribed for conditions that cannot be treated with glasses or contact lenses alone.
  • By reinforcing or re-teaching vision skills, conditions such as poor eye coordination, movement, lazy eye and perceptual problems can be improved.
  • Your care and concern for your child's vision can enrich his or her future while helping develop eye care habits for a lifetime of good vision.

Protecting your child’s eyes from the sun

Protecting your child’s eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is just as important as putting on sunscreen to protect their skin, and it is an issue through every season of the year.

The glare from snow can be just as harmful as the glare from water. Many age-related eye diseases may be partially caused by UV exposure throughout your life. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to UV radiation.

Speak to your optometrist about the best options for our child. In addition to appropriate sunglasses, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap can provide further protection.

Your Alberta optometrist is a skilled professional

  • Alberta optometrists have specialized education. They complete a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited university.
  • Alberta optometrists are experts who play an important role in the vision, eye health, and overall health of your family.

Alberta optometrists are trained to:

  • Treat, manage and correct disorders and diseases of the visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Recognize and detect related systemic conditions and manage ocular manifestations.
  • Diagnose, treat and manage binocular and perceptual vision disorders.
  • Prescribe any topical or oral Schedule 1 drug in the context of eye care.
  • Remove superficial foreign bodies from the eye in or below the surface of the cornea.
  • Plus, the independent management of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Alberta optometrists provide primary eye care.

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Children and Youth Eye Care: Additional resources for parents

Doctor’s Note video tips

Further reading

Delicious recipes to help keep your family’s eyes healthy