The NLAO challenges Minister Haggie to do what is right for our children.


Each October, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Optometrists, along with the Canadian Association of Optometrists celebrates Children’s Vision Month. It’s during this month that we hope to draw particular attention to the importance of children’s eye care. Did you know that 80% of our learning is done through our visual system? If a child has undiagnosed vision issues that prevent him or her from focusing for more than a few minutes while reading, or if a child is unable to efficiently switch from the board to desk while taking notes, how likely is that child to be able to process that information to learn it? If a child takes twice as long to read something than his or her classmates because they keep losing their place, or the words continue to go double, how can they be expected to learn from that material? When there are barriers preventing our children from learning to read, how can they be expected to read to learn?

 

Unfortunately, this is happening everyday in classrooms across our province. Newfoundland and Labrador is the ONLY province in Canada without a children’s vision program. What exactly does that mean? It means that in every other province in Canada except for Newfoundland and Labrador, a child entering kindergarten is guaranteed a comprehensive eye examination by a Doctor of Optometry, no matter their economic situation. In some provinces, this also includes glasses if necessary. In provinces like Ontario, Alberta and BC, a child is entitled to a comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of Optometry EVERY year while they are school aged, covered under the provincial health care plan.

 

It’s an understatement to say that as Optometrists, we are frustrated. Our province’s children deserve better. Everyday, we see children struggling with vision problems that could have and should have been diagnosed BEFORE they entered the classroom. As a child progresses in school, these vision problems can often cause behavioral issues, lack of self esteem, and ultimately, barriers to academic success. In addition to this, our teachers are subsequently tasked with making sure these children are tested for learning disabilities due to their inability to focus.

 

In an effort to improve the standard of children’s eye care in our province, the NLAO has proposed a pilot program to Minister Haggie that reflects those of other provinces. We have provided evidence-based research showing the importance of children’s eye care and early intervention. We are very frustrated that despite our discussions with the minister’s office, there have been two budgets with no allocation for children’s vision care. We are compelled to demand better.

 

We challenge Minister Haggie to do what is right for our children. As parents, we don’t want anything to stand in the way of our children’s success. Let’s start all children out on the right foot by making sure they have a healthy visual system. When they can see, they can achieve!

 

The CAO recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye examination by a Doctor of Optometry between the ages of 6 to 9 months, once again between the ages of 2 and 5 years old, and yearly while school aged.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Trudy Metcalfe

President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Optometrists

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