I was concerned when my daughter came home from school repeatedly complaining of blurry vision. I made an appointment with the nearest optometrist, which happened to be Specsavers. I was rather daunted by the looming appointment as I had all my four children with me at the time. Well, talk about a positive experience: the staff were so kind, treated the children and I with respect and care. Frankly, I was blown away by the service. How often can one say that these days? My daughter’s slight eye problem was easily corrected with glasses she wears for school. She was excited to choose her glasses and picked out the pictured blue glasses with flexible frames.
As part of my Back to School Posts, I’m interviewing the Managing Director of Specsavers, Peter Larsen.
Kelly: Peter, thank you for joining us here at Be A Fun Mum. My personal experience with Specsavers has been a positive one. Are your staff used to working with children and parents?
Peter Larsen: Absolutely, Specsavers optometrists have plenty of experience testing children of all ages and use different testing methods depending on your child’s age. The test lasts around 30 minutes and is covered by Medicare. The examination can assess whether your child has long sightedness, short sightedness, astigmatism, a lazy eye or an eye disease. Specsavers also offer a wide range of fun and colourful frames for children of all ages, including the ‘Mr Men and Little Miss’ range exclusive to Specsavers.
Kelly: Should a child’s eyes be tested before they start school even if there are no apparent problems?
Peter Larsen: If your child exhibits any of the signs on the Specsavers kids eye health checklist (shown below), it is well worth considering having your child’s eyes tested before they start school. Vision problems can be difficult to spot and children have no way of knowing if what they see is any different from what others can see. During the first 12 years of our lives, as much as 80% of learning is accomplished through our vision yet one out of every four children has an undetected vision problem that may inhibit their progress. During the school years, a child’s vision can change rapidly and the early detection of vision problems in children greatly reduces their impact on a child’s learning and development.
Kelly: What age should parents arrange for a first eye test for their children?
Peter Larsen: We advise that children should have their first eye examination at around three years old, particularly if there is a family history of sight problems. As learning difficulties are often caused by uncorrected vision problems, the earlier they can be detected, the better the chance of correcting them. A squint, or misalignment of the eyes, may be treated with methods such as an eye patch or special glasses in a young child, but in older children, surgery will be required so it is important to catch this early.
Kelly: How often should children have their eyes checked?
Peter Larsen: While most infants and pre-school children have regular vision screening as part of their routine developmental checks, they aren’t as thorough as a full eye examination. A child’s vision can change rapidly, so we advise parents take their child for an eye test every two to three years.
Kelly: At what age can children safely begin wearing contacts lenses, especially for competitive sports?
Peter Larsen: Physiologically a child can wear contact lenses from a young age – if closely monitored contact lenses should not affect the development of young eyes. However, with contact lenses comes a certain degree of responsibility – they can be difficult for children to insert into the eye, are easy to lose, and require rigorous daily maintenance and hygiene to avoid risking eye infections. This responsibility will inevitably be borne by the parents of younger children.
Kelly: Should children wear sunglasses at school?
Peter Larsen: Yes, children should definitely be wearing sunglasses at school. Everyone knows about the dangers of UV protection for their skin but eyes also need protection. Children’s eyes can be even more vulnerable at school from harsh UV glare while running around in the playground. Ensure your child takes a pair of UV sunglasses to school and if they wear prescription glasses ensure they have a pair of prescription sunglasses as well.
Specsavers kids eye health checklist
Specsavers has put together some hints and tips on how parents can spot if their child may need glasses:
Squinting – If your child’s teacher says they frequently squint at the board, they may be trying to compensate for their poor vision.
Sitting too close to the television – Short-sighted children generally have clear vision at a close range and poor vision at a distance.
Rubbing eyes and headaches – If your child rubs their eyes excessively or complains of headaches regularly, it may mean they’re straining their eye muscles.
Reading problems – Children who frequently skip lines or lose their place while reading books may have vision associated problems.