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‘Being able to see clearly is incredibly important in your child’s overall development’

Local optician, Andrea Ridgway, is encouraging parents to use the school holidays to get their children’s eyes tested for a number of reasons, writes Catriona Doherty

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It’s important to get your child’s eyes tested ahead of starting school

It’s important to get your child’s eyes tested ahead of starting school

Getty Images/Westend61

It’s important to get your child’s eyes tested ahead of starting school

With more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, Andrea Ridgway, is an expert in her field, and she’s urging parents and guardians to use the summer holidays to get their children’s eyes tested, prior to the new school year in September. “Children’s eyes are special; in the early years, vision helps them find out about the world around them, about their home, about you,” says Andrea (49), the Dispensing Optician and Director at Specsavers in Bangor, and Director at Specsavers Newtownards. “Later, as they go through school, their eyesight lets them learn and discover — in fact, about 80% of what is taught in schools is presented visually. Being able to see clearly is therefore incredibly important in your child’s overall development. “Most young children have their eyesight assessed as part of routine developmental checks, but they aren’t as thorough as a complete eye test by a qualified optician. And many children will most likely have missed an eye test in the past two years due to the impact of Covid and lockdown restrictions. “Testing before your child goes into full-time education means that any problems that they may have, are identified early, setting them up for a happy and fulfilling school life.” Andrea says specially designed charts are used, whereby children can recognise shapes or pictures, or even match letters, as a means of testing sight – rather than the traditional charts that adults may be familiar with. “This means that we can test children’s eyes even if they are unable to read or recognise letters,” she explains. “We know that eye tests can be a little overwhelming for some children — especially if it’s their first time. That’s why we’ve made the process as enjoyable and child friendly as possible. “An eye test generally takes 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the lens prescription, glasses could be ready in an hour, or it could be a few days. Eyesight tests go a step further than checking vision, Andrea says: “We also check the overall health of the eye, and the muscles and associated structures to ensure they are healthy too. During the test, we can detect a variety of eye conditions such as squint and amblyopia – also called lazy eye – which can be treated more effectively if picked up earlier, which could make a huge difference to a child. “Children under the age of 16, as well as those under 19 who are in full-time education, are entitled to an NHS-funded eye test. All glasses in our Kids’ and Teens’ £64 and £89 ranges are free with an under-16s’ NHS optical voucher. “Our children’s glasses are not just smaller versions of adults’ styles. We spend a lot of time developing them so that by the time they arrive in our stores, our children’s glasses are exactly that: glasses specifically designed for children. So, as well as looking good, they have a number of features that take into account your child’s anatomy and head shape, and the fact that they are likely to grow during the time they own them.”

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