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Are Your Child’s Eyes Ready for School? Ask a Paediatric Optometrist

Paediatric optometrist back to school eye test in Canberra

When was the last time your child had their eyes checked?

It’s a question many parents might overlook, especially with the hustle and bustle of preparing for a new school year.

But here’s the thing: just because your child hasn’t complained about their vision, doesn’t mean their eyes are perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a commonly stated statistic that 1 in 4 children has undetected vision problems.

And don’t assume that school screenings have you covered, either. A recent study found that school vision tests fail to detect vision issues in 75% of cases!

Many eyesight conditions in children are not obvious and can only be detected through a professional eye exam by a paediatric optometrist.

It’s common for parents to think, “My child would tell me if they couldn’t see well,” but in reality, kids often don’t recognize or verbalize their vision issues. They might assume everyone sees the world the way they do.

This is why a ‘back to school eye examination’ is crucial – it can catch those hidden problems, ensuring your child’s vision isn’t a hurdle in their learning journey. Imperfect vision can seriously hold back your child’s academic and social development.

My name is Juliet Menakaya, and I’m the owner and principal paediatric optometrist at Junic Eye Care. I regularly consult with Canberra parents about the eye care of their children. At our practice we make these eye exams thorough, and child-friendly, so your little one can get back to their adventures with healthier eyes.

Why not secure that appointment today and give your child one of the best tools for success this school year – clear vision.

Or if you want to learn more about what we can do to help your child achieve the healthiest eyes and best eyesight, keep reading!


The Link Between Vision and Learning

Understanding the strong connection between vision and learning is crucial. As a paediatric optometrist, I’ve witnessed how important visual skills are for a child’s academic success. Let’s take a closer look at these skills:

  • Eye Tracking: This is so important for reading. Children struggling with eye tracking may find keeping track of lines while reading difficult. This challenge can make reading less enjoyable and hinder their overall interest in literature.
  • Binocular Coordination: This ensures the eyes work in harmony, vital for depth perception and spatial understanding. It helps children in activities requiring depth judgment, such as catching a ball.
  • Convergence: This is the ability of the eyes to focus on near tasks. It’s essential when a child is reading, writing, or using a computer. Problems with convergence can lead to discomfort, such as headaches or eye strain.
  • Central and Peripheral Vision: Both are important in a classroom setting. Central vision aids in focusing on specific tasks like reading from the board, while peripheral vision helps in being aware of the entire classroom environment.

When a child faces difficulties in these areas, it can significantly affect their academic performance. For example, challenges in eye tracking can impede reading fluency, affecting all subjects that involve reading.

Statistic Explanation
>1 in 20 preschool-age, 1 in 4 school-age Prevalence of vision disorders in preschool-age and school-age children.
80% Proportion of learning through visual inputs in a child’s first 12 years.
<15% Percentage of preschool children who receive a professional eye exam.
2% Prevalence of Amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) in children aged six months to six years.
Once between age 3 and 5 years Recommended frequency of vision screening to detect amblyopia or its risk factors.

Table data from: “Children’s Eye Health: 5 Powerful Eye Statistics Every Parent Should See

Symptoms of Vision Issues in Children

Being a parent or guardian means keeping an eye out for the subtle signs that something might be amiss with your child’s health, including their vision. Recognizing the symptoms of vision issues in children is crucial because catching these problems early can lead to much better outcomes. Here are some common signs to watch for:

  • Frequent Eye Rubbing or Blinking: This is often a child’s instinctive reaction to vision discomfort. If you notice your child frequently rubbing or blinking their eyes, it could be a sign they are trying to clear or improve their vision.
  • Squinting or Tilting the Head: Squinting might be a sign that your child is struggling to see clearly. Similarly, tilting the head or covering one eye can be a child’s way of coping with binocular vision issues, where the eyes aren’t working together as they should.
  • Sitting Too Close to Screens or Books: Notice how close your child sits to the TV or how they hold their books. Sitting very close or holding reading material too close to their face might suggest they have trouble seeing things at a normal distance, possibly indicating nearsightedness.
  • Avoiding Visually Intensive Activities: If your child seems to avoid activities like reading, writing, or even certain games and puzzles, it could be because these tasks cause visual discomfort or difficulty.
  • Poor School Performance: A sudden drop in grades or a lack of progress in school can sometimes be traced back to undiagnosed vision problems. It’s not always about understanding the material; sometimes, it’s about seeing it clearly.
  • Complaints of Headaches or Eye Pain: Regular complaints of headaches or eye discomfort, especially after reading or other visual tasks, can be a sign of eye strain or other underlying vision issues.
  • Difficulty Concentrating on School Work: Vision problems can make it hard for a child to focus on their work. What might seem like attention or behavioral issues could actually be a struggle with seeing the work in front of them.
  • Losing Place While Reading: If your child often loses their place or skips lines while reading, this could be indicative of eye tracking problems, making it hard for them to follow text smoothly.
  • Trouble with Hand-Eye Coordination: Difficulties in catching a ball or other activities requiring hand-eye coordination could point to vision issues. This skill is crucial for many aspects of learning and playing.
  • Behavioral Changes: Sometimes, changes in behavior, like increased irritability or frustration during tasks involving reading or writing, can be a child’s response to the challenges they face due to vision problems.


The Role of a Paediatric Optometrist

At Junic Eye Care, our approach to paediatric eye exams is thorough and child-centric, making the experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible for both you and your child. Let me walk you through what happens during one of these exams at our clinic.

  • A Thorough Examination: When your child visits us for an eye exam, we don’t just check if they can see clearly; we perform a comprehensive evaluation of their eye health and vision. We use age-appropriate methods and tools to ensure that we get an accurate understanding of your child’s visual capabilities.
  • A Kind and Patient Approach: I believe that a key part of being a paediatric optometrist is creating a positive and reassuring environment for our young patients. Children may feel anxious about eye exams, so I always take extra time to explain the process in a way they can understand, using simple and friendly language. My aim is to make each child feel comfortable and safe. I encourage questions and make sure that both the child and the parents are at ease throughout the examination.
  • Customized Care and Advice: Following the examination, I provide personalized advice and care plans, tailored to your child’s specific needs. Whether it’s a prescription for glasses, exercises to improve eye coordination, or further assessments, every recommendation is made with your child’s best interest in heart.
Paediatric optometrist in Canberra
Paediatric optometrist eye test in Canberra

Eye Care: Beyond the Basics

Early intervention in a child’s overall eye health can make a significant difference, not just in correcting vision but also in preventing long-term learning issues. Here’s how we approach this:

  • Behavioral Optometry: We assess and treat visual problems that are related to visual perception, including how the brain processes what the eye sees. This approach is particularly beneficial for children facing challenges in reading and hand-eye coordination.
  • Myopia Control: With the increasing prevalence of myopia or nearsightedness in children, our clinic offers targeted treatments to slow its progression, including myopia control lenses and eye exercises.
  • Dry Eye Treatment: Children can also suffer from dry eye syndrome, often exacerbated by increased screen time. We provide treatments and strategies to manage this condition, ensuring comfort and long-term eye health.
  • Treatments and Technologies: At our practice, we employ the latest technologies and treatment methods to provide the best possible care. This includes advanced imaging techniques for a detailed analysis of eye health, as well as the latest treatments for various eye conditions. We constantly update our knowledge and equipment to stay at the forefront of eye care.


Preparing Your Child for an Eye Exam

Eye exams with a new paediatric optometrist can be somewhat daunting experience for children. As parents, your support and reassurance are key to making this process smooth and stress-free for your little ones. Here are some tips to help prepare your child for an eye exam:

Addressing Concerns and Anxieties:

Children might be nervous about what an eye exam entails. It’s important to talk to them about it beforehand. Explain that the exam is a way to make sure their eyes are healthy and strong, just like a regular doctor’s visit checks on their overall health. Let them know that there’s nothing to be worried about.

Making Eye Exams Fun:

Describe the eye checkup in a fun and engaging way. You could say, “You’ll get to play a special game where you tell us which pictures or letters you can see!” Talk about the different tools we use as something exciting and new, rather than intimidating.

Positive Reinforcement:

Build a positive mindset by focusing on the enjoyable aspects of the exam. You could plan a small treat or a fun activity for after the appointment. This gives your child something to look forward to and creates a positive association with eye exams.

Choosing the Right Time:

Schedule the exam when your child is usually at their best – perhaps not right after a busy day at school or early in the morning. A time when they’re typically alert and relaxed is ideal.

On the Day of the Exam:

  • Rest and Nutrition: A good night’s sleep and a healthy meal or snack before the exam can make a big difference. A well-rested and well-fed child is more likely to be cooperative and in good spirits.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Dress your child in clothes they feel comfortable and happy in. This small step can help them feel more at ease in a new environment.
  • A Familiar Object: If your child has a favorite toy or book, letting them bring it along can provide comfort and a sense of familiarity.

Post-Exam Discussion:

After the exam, take a moment to chat with your child about what happened. Ask them what they thought about the experience and what they learned about their eyes. This can help demystify the process and make them more comfortable for future visits.

By taking these steps, you’re not only preparing your child for an eye exam but also helping them develop a positive attitude towards eye care.

If your little one is still nervous, perhaps the two of you could watch the following video from Dr Vicky Fisher to give them a positive frame of reference.


As we wrap up, let’s do a quick recap. We’ve talked about how crucial good vision is for your child’s learning and fun times at school. Remember, not all vision issues are obvious, and kids might not even know they’re struggling to see clearly. That’s why those regular eye checks are so important – they help catch sneaky problems early.

Let’s not forget, overlooking eye health can really get in the way of your child’s schoolwork and play. Meeting with a paediatric optometrist to catch any vision troubles early can make a huge difference, not just in the classroom but in all aspects of their growing lives.

So, as the school year is kicking off, why not make sure those little eyes are all set to go? At Junic Eyecare, we’re all about making eye exams stress-free and super kid-friendly.

To visit our optometry practice, click the “Book Online” button at the top of the page or call (02) 6152 8585 today.

You’ll find our clinic conveniently located in the Molonglo Health Hub, just a short 10 minute drive from central Canberra, with plenty of free parking when you get here.

Author: Juliet Menakaya, O.D MPH

CANBERRA OPTOMETRIST Juliet obtained her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 2006. She completed an internship programme before migrating to Australia, where she completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sydney in 2014. Following this, Juliet obtained a Master of Orthoptics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2017. Juliet has completed her competency in optometry examination with OCANZ (Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand), and obtained her ophthalmic prescribing rights from ACO (Australian College Of Optometry Victoria). Juliet has worked in various positions, including retail Optometry, the Ophthalmology Department at Canberra Hospital, and more recently, at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (ANU). As a dedicated Canberra optometrist, Juliet is passionate about helping people with low vision, and binocular vision anomalies hence her interests in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Eccentric Viewing Training and Paediatric optometry.