NZ Woman's Weekly

At home eye screen for children

Recent research by OPSM found that one in six Kiwi school children has experienced eye problems, while seven in 10 New Zealand parents are unaware of the frequency of their children’s eye tests.

However, a new children’s book, Penny the Pirate, can now test children’s eyesight from the comfort of home. We spoke with OPSM spokesperson and mother, Sophie Falkiner, to find out more.

How often should parents get their child’s eyesight checked?

Many parents may not know this, but children aged three to 10 years should be getting their eyes tested every two years.

Boy with Glasses

A few signs that your child may need their eyes tested include, holding books close, squinting when reading,
or frequent headaches.

What are the signs parents should look out for?

Children, especially young kids, may not know or are afraid to speak up if they’re having difficulties with their vision, so it’s up to parents to notice the signs and symptoms.

There are a number of simple things to look out for including holding books close or squinting when reading, frequent headaches or blinking, difficulty concentrating, red eyes or even clumsiness.

What are your thoughts on the latest OPSM child eye health research results?

As a mum, the latest OPSM findings around children’s eye health are worrying. So many of us are on top of ensuring our kids are going to the dentist and have the perfect fitting school shoe, but when it comes to eye health the same attention isn’t given. Eye health is incredibly important, particularly for children as they grow and develop.

I’ve seen firsthand the impact vision issues can have on children. A friend of mine had a daughter who was told she had learning difficulties for years. However, after a simple eye test they realized her ‘difficulties’ came from not being able to see clearly. I’m happy to say she’s now thriving at school and has so much more confidence.

After hearing my friend’s story, I had both of my children tested immediately. Now it’s something we do every two years as a regular checkup. Recently, my daughter Isabella complained of headaches whilst reading, and sure enough she is short sighted and needs glasses for reading.

Penny the Pirate Eye BookHow did the idea for Penny the Pirate, a bedtime story that is also an at home eye test, come about?

Penny the Pirate was created to raise awareness of children’s eye health and improve the vision of children across New Zealand. Written and illustrated by Kevin Waldron, the book follows the journey of Penny as she attempts to become the captain of the Mighty Pickle.

Where can parents find the book?

Penny the Pirate is available free from OPSM stores nationally. Alternatively, it’s available to download for free at the App store and Google Play, where registered users will be delivered the essential accompanying kit complete with an eye patch, spyglass and 3D glasses! Once you’ve completed the screenings with your children, I’d encourage you to pass the book and kit onto a friend.

For more information on eye health, talk to the experts at OPSM.

Take a look at how to give your child the attention they need here.

About Indiana Munn

Indiana is the Digital Content Producer for New Zealand Woman’s Weekly website. Prior to this she was the Features Editor at Good Health Choices magazine and before that was a Journalist at a weekly entertainment magazine.

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