Visual Health for Children

It is important to take your child to an optometrist regularly.  

15,000 children in Ontario have trouble reading because they need glasses.  Vision problems can affect their learning abilities, social development, self-esteem and hand-eye coordination. Every year in Ontario, 7,000 children lose the use of an eye because they were not treated promptly for a vision problem. If not identified early, some eye problems can permanently reduce a child’s vision.

Classroom learning is largely visual.  Signs your child is struggling include:

  • Performing below potential
  • Avoiding close work or disliking reading
  • Losing his or her place while reading
  • Omitting or confusing small words when reading
  • Holding reading material closer than usual
  • Turning or tilting head to use only one eye
  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Frequent headaches
  • Eye rubbing

For more information, read the article: “A Child’s Visual Milestone – How well can your child see?

Screen Time

Children’s use of digital media has increased dramatically, and begins earlier in childhood.  Time spent in front of a screen can affect children’s vision.  Increased prevalence or progression of myopia (nearsightedness) has been linked with children spending fewer hours outdoors.

Limit screen time of television, computers, tablets, smartphones and video games. Visit the Active Play page for recommended screen time for children.

Position the computer to avoid eye strain:

The Canadian Association of Optometrist recommends placing the top of the computer at the child’s eye level, and then allow them to move the screen down into a comfortable viewing position as needed. Make sure that there is no glare or reflection on the screen.

illustration of computer alignment with the child's eye level

Optometric Examination
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends the following: 
  • Preschool children should have at least one eye examination between the ages of 2 and 5 years.
  • School children aged 6 to 19 years should have an eye examination annually.

What is the optometrist looking for in an examination?

  • Health and visual history
  • Focusing ability
  • Eye movement control
  • Depth perception
  • Colour vision
  • Glasses prescription
  • Lazy or crossed eyes
  • Eye coordination

A valid Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card covers the cost of an annual eye examination for children and youth aged 0 to 19 years.  

To find an optometrist, visit the Ontario Association of Optometrists website for a list of doctors in your area.

School Vision Screening
Free vision screenings are offered in schools for senior kindergarten students

What is a vision screening?

A vision screening is a series of short, non-invasive tests that can detect if a child has eye problems. It cannot diagnose a vision disorder, but it may indicate a need to consult an eye doctor for further evaluation.

 Why is good vision health important?

Every year in Ontario, 15,000 children have trouble learning to read just because they need glasses. Children need healthy eyes so they can stay safe, learn and participate in sports.

Why have a vision screening program in schools?

  • Children rarely complain that they cannot see well because they think their vision is normal.
  • Parents, guardians, educators and teachers cannot always tell when a child has trouble seeing.
  • In Ottawa, only 48% of children aged four to five have had at least one complete eye exam in their lifetime.
  • If not identified early, some eye problems can permanently affect a child’s vision.

What happens during the vision screening?

The school vision screening has three stations set up as games:

  • To measure the structure of the eyes
  • To evaluate the clarity and sharpness of vision
  • To assess depth perception

What will happen after the vision screening?

All children will receive a letter with the screening results to bring home to their parents/guardians.  Ottawa Public Health can help families with finding an eye doctor for a complete eye exam.

A vision screening does not replace a complete exam by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist). Children who participate in the vision screening program could still have a vision problem. A valid OHIP card will cover the cost of an eye exam once every 12 months.

 Make an appointment with an eye doctor today for all children in your family under the age of 19!

Assistance with the Cost of Prescription Eyeglasses
Eye See... Eye Learn®
The Eye See... Eye Learn® program encourages parents to book a comprehensive eye exam for their junior kindergarten child with a local, participating optometrist. The cost of the exam is covered by OHIP. If a child needs glasses, they will receive a complimentary pair donated by Nikon Lenswear, OGI and the participating optometrist. The estimated value of the glasses is over $250.

Visit the program website for age eligibility requirements and a list of participating optometrists. 

 Junior kindergarten girl wearing glasses looking up with a smile, sitting on a table with an open book and a green apple


Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program
Families receiving financial assistance from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can contact their caseworker for information on assistance with the cost of prescription eyeglasses.
Low-Income Families
Help with the cost of prescription eyeglasses may be available for low-income families. Call the Community and Social Services Department at 3-1-1 for more information.
Services for Children Who are Blind or Have Low Vision
Ontario’s Blind – Low Vision Early Intervention Program is designed to give children who are blind or with low vision the best possible start in life. Specialized family-centered services are funded by the province and are available for children from birth to Grade 1.

The program offers three types of services:

  1. Family support
  2. Intervention services
  3. Consultation services

Visit the program website. For more information about regional services, visit the Eastern Ontario Blind Low Vision Program (Ottawa, Renfrew County and Eastern counties of Prescott-Russell & Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry)

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