Visual Health

Vision Screening

Visual health is an important part of a child’s overall health and well-being. Proper vision is important for a child’s movement and coordination, independence, play and learning. If left untreated, vision problems may become serious and prevent a child from reaching their full potential.

Region of Waterloo Public Health is partnering with University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science, Lion's Club and the Cowan Foundation to offer school-based vision screening to senior kindergarten (SK) students according to the Child Visual Health and Vision Screening Protocol, 2018 of the Ontario Public Health Standards (2018). During the 2019 – 2020 school year, SK students in the Waterloo Catholic District School Board and the Waterloo Region District School Board will participate in vision screening. Read more about the program in this CBC news article

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vision screening? 
Vision screening is a series of three short and simple tests that can identify some risk factors for certain vision disorders.

It is a free service that is offered in the school-setting to SK students on a yearly basis.

Vision screening does not replace the need for a full exam by an eye doctor on a yearly basis or whenever there is a concern. Children and youth (0 - 19 years old) are covered for a free exam by an eye doctor every 12 months through OHIP (Ontario health card). To find a local eye doctor, please visit search Find an Optometrist website. 

Why is vision screening important? 

Young children may not know they have a vision problem because they assume everyone sees like they do. Vision screening is a non-invasive way to help identify children with potential vision problems and refer them to the eye doctor for a free comprehensive eye exam. It is important for vision problems to be caught and treated early so that children can see and learn to the best of their ability. 

What vision screening tests are used? 

The following three vision screening tests are used:

Test name Example

HOTV visual acuity chart (letter book)

This test measures sharpness of eyesight/clarity of vision.

visual acuity chart 

Randot Preschool Stereotest (3D picture book)

This test measures the ability to recognize depth.

3D picture book 

Autorefractor (automated camera)

This test automatically screens for some refractive errors such as near and farsightedness.

automated camera 
If my child wears glasses, do they need to be screened? 

Children wearing glasses will still be screened using the HOTV visual acuity chart and the Randot Preschool Stereotest. They will leave their glasses on for these tests. 

How will parents be notified that vision screening is being offered at their child’s school? 

Parents and guardians of children in SK will receive a notification that the screening is taking place at their child’s school at least ten business days in advance of the screening date. Parents and guardians are advised to contact Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400 if they:

  • Have questions about vision screening
  • Need help with finding an eye doctor
  • Wish to opt their child out of the Vision Screening program*
  • To see when vision screening is happening at your child’s school visit:

*You may also opt out of the Vision Screening program by filling out the Vision Screening Opt Out Form

Please submit opt out notifications at least two school days before your child's screening date. If an opt-out is received less than two school days prior to screening, your child may be screened.

What happens after a child has been screened? 

Parents and guardians of all children screened will receive a Parent Notification Form that notes their child’s overall result (i.e. vision issues identified or no vision issues identified) with recommended next steps.

Parents and guardians of children screened who may have vision issues, will receive a Reminder Letter within 20 business days of the screening date. 

What is a comprehensive eye exam? 

A comprehensive eye exam is a full examination of the visual and ocular system. This includes:

  • Reviewing child’s health and academic history and any family history of eye problems
  • Examining:
    • Vision at distance and near
    • Depth perception
    • Eye alignment
    • Eye focusing (i.e. how well the eyes can stimulate or relax focus at various distances)
    • Eye health (i.e. allergies, infections)
  • Following the eye exam, the optometrist will be able to:
    • Identify if the child’s vision is developing the same as other children their age
    • Determine the need for eye glasses or other medical treatment

Vision screening cannot diagnose vision disorders and eye diseases, and it is NOT a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor. 

How often should an infant or child go to the eye doctor? 

The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends that all children have their first eye exam at six months old, again at 2-3 years old, and every year after that, or as recommended by the eye doctor.

Children and youth (0-19 years old) are covered for a free eye exam by an eye doctor every 12 months through OHIP (Ontario health card).

For more information on exams for infants and children and eye health, please visit the Ontario Association of Optometrists website.

We don’t currently have a family eye doctor. Can you help? 

Please call Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400 for assistance with finding an eye doctor in your area.

You can also search for an eye doctor in your area through the College of Optometrists of Ontario or the Ontario Association of Optometrists

I need assistance paying for the cost of prescription glasses for my child. What are my options? 

The Eye See…Eye Learn® program offered through the Ontario Association of Optometrists is available to children in Junior or Senior Kindergarten. If required, Eye See…Eye Learn® will provide one pair of glasses per child courtesy of participating optometrists and corporate partners.


Ontario. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Child Visual Health and Vision Screening Protocol, 2018. [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 August 28]

Eye See…Eye Learn® - Ontario Association of Optometrists

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