Clear vision is essential to a child’s early development. The majority of what children learn early on in a classroom is presented visually. Early eye exams can ensure that they have the visual skills they need to do well in school. Routine eye exams can also lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of common vision and eye health problems including:
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Strabismus (crossed eyes)
- Refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism)
What is involved in children’s eye care?
As a parent, it is not always easy to tell if your child is suffering from a vision problem. That is why it is best to follow the guidelines set forth by the American Optometric Association (AOA) concerning childhood eye exams.
The AOA recommendations for eye examinations in children include:
- Infants: first eye exam at six months of age
- Three years of age: comprehensive eye exam
- Five years of age: comprehensive eye exam
- School age children with no eye problems: comprehensive eye exam every two years
- School age children with refractive errors: comprehensive eye exam annually
Reasons to bring your child to the eye doctor
Early diagnosis of childhood vision problems is essential. Children are more responsive to treatment of eye diseases and problems when they are diagnosed in the early stages. Routine eye exams are needed to detect nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, as well as screen for binocular vision problems like amblyopia and strabismus.
Parents also need to understand the link between visual skills and learning in early childhood. To achieves ones full academic potential in a classroom and absorb what is going on around them children need basic visual skills like:
- Good distance and near vision
- Eye coordination
- Focusing ability
- Acceptable peripheral vision
- Good hand-eye coordination
- Vision problems often run in families (So if you need to wear glasses, it is possible your child does too.)
This is why it is important to bring children to the eye doctor before they enter school and continue scheduling eye examinations as they progress in their education.
Providing eye care for children
Eye examinations are different at every stage of a child’s development.
The initial screenings for infants at six months are very basic; the doctor will test for:
- Pupil response
- Preferential looking
Eye examinations for preschool-aged and school-aged children will also include:
- Retinoscopy test (Dr. objectively determines the prescription without asking “which is better, 1 or 2?”)
- Eye chart tests with age-appropriate symbols, or letters
- Random dot stereopsis
- Test for lazy eye
- Test for crossed eyes
- Eye focusing ability test
- Check of overall eye health
Be sure to schedule regular eye examinations for your children to ensure that vision problems are not hindering them from achieving their full potential.