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Eye exams: when to start getting them and a special offer in Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: It’s back to school, and as Doug Vaessen reports, it’s also a good time to get your kids’ eyes checked.

CALGARY- With only a few weeks left until the start of school, many parents are taking their children to their first eye exams to make sure they’re ready to succeed in the classroom.

Five-year-old Max Hamel is heading into kindergarten in Calgary, and his mom found a special deal for young kids who need glasses.

“I just figured it’s a good time to make sure he is healthy across the board,” said Misty Hamel. “I knew Alberta Health would cover eye exams, then I found out there is a program that offers a free pair of glasses to anybody entering  kindergarten.”

Dr. Tammy Brauner says eye exams may be the most important exam of the school year, since vision problems are often misdiagnosed as behaviour or learning disabilities.

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“Often times you will find a lot of vision problems do not have easy-to-detect symptoms,” said Brauner. “So it’s really hard for parents to recognize vision problems in their kids.  And lots of kids won’t complain because they just accept their vision as normal, because they don’t know any different.”

The Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) recommends kids get their first eye exams between six and nine months of age, but the organization warns that’s not the norm. AAO said only 14 per cent of kids under the age of six have had an eye exam, despite statistics that show 80 per cent of their learning is based on vision.

Max won’t need glasses for kindergarten, but Brauner found a red/green colour deficiency and a “very minor prescription” that doesn’t warrant a pair of glasses right now.

“I’m happy to have that knowledge in my back pocket that there are things I need to watch for and have his teacher watch for,” said Hamel. “It just sort of makes me feel more empowered as a mom.”

Alberta health care covers the cost of a yearly eye exam until 19 years of age. For more information on eye exams in Alberta and the “Eye See…Eye Learn” program that offers free glasses for kindergartners, click here.

With files from Erika Tucker

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