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Children’s eye exams vs School Screenings

eye chart

This is definitely one of my pet peeves.  Schools or school boards that encourage school vision and hearing screenings vs the parents taking their children to see the optometrist or the audiologist on their own time.

As a parent, it sounds convenient when a school form comes around to sign our child up to have a vision screening with a hearing test for a cost of $25-$35 depending on the school.  Your child gets pulled out of the classroom, gets placed in a line and goes through a screening, which is not a full evaluation. I can only speak on behalf of the visual portion of these screenings and will not comment on the auditory component of these screenings.

If the child fails the screening, they are recommended to see an optometrist for an OHIP insured examination.  OHIP insures children’s eye examinations up to and including 19 years of age. This is part of our taxation system, so you pay into this whether you use it or not.  A visual assessment with an optometrist is far more detailed and extensive than the visual screening performed at the schools.

I often see siblings from these visual screenings.  One has passed the screening and the other has failed it.  Most often the one that has passed the screening actually has visual issues that need to be addressed and the one that failed it is fine.

What is the purpose of pulling children out of class in an educational setting, having them stand in the hallways waiting their turn to be screened that often is inaccurate and imprecise?  What can this child be learning in a school setting instead of going through this process?

I can appreciate that this is convenient for the parents.  They do not need to take time out of their schedule to do this screening.  However, the misperception is that a full visual assessment has been done when a screening doesn’t even come close.  There is no health assessment, minimal binocular assessments and no refractive analysis at all. Up to a +4.00 to a -1.00 prescription can easily be missed in these kids which may create some significant learning related vision issues.  What is the cost of missing significant health, eye teaming or refractive issues for having it convenient within the school system?

Personally, I wish the schools and school boards would consider requiring a full eye examination by a qualified health professional prior to entering JK and every year after that.  I do feel that the students would be far better served to be educated while at school rather than taking time out of their education for a screening that gives the misperception that things may be ok when they are not.  What is the cost to your child’s education for sub-optimal eye care or years of a missed vision diagnosis that could actually have assisted your child’s learning?

Patricia Fink, BSc., O.D., FCOVD