Your Child's First Eye Exam and Test
Are you wondering if your child needs a full exam with an eye doctor? Most parents rely on brief vision screenings at school or at the pediatrician’s office to determine if their child could have a vision issue. Unfortunately, these brief evaluations are not always sufficient. They primarily test a child’s distant vision, to be sure that they can see the board in class or a ball on a field. This leaves many children who have difficultly seeing up close, like my daughter, undiagnosed.
Recently my 6-year-old said the oddest thing to me. She asked me why I had four eyes and two heads. Then she laughed, but she was serious. She was seeing double.
I was alarmed, of course, and immediately made an appointment with our eye doctor. She had been given the “all clear” in several screenings over the past three or four years. And that left me entirely misled. I wasn’t aware that it was recommended that children have a full eye exam at age three. Our pediatrician never recommended it and our school district didn't require it for entrance into Kindergarten.
My daughter began to read very early and is academically at the top of her class, yet she was struggling in school. She couldn’t concentrate on her assignments; she was jumping around in her seat and constantly looking up from her work. These are signs of ADHD, right? They are also symptoms of a vision problem.
Even if your child is not having obvious problems with their vision, an exam by a qualified professional is beneficial. The American Optometric Association recommends children receive an eye exam at age three and then again before entering first grade. Follow up with comprehensive exams every two years.It may not seem necessary if you have never had a vision problem yourself, but left untreated, children with vision issues struggle in various ways at school and can develop headaches or be misdiagnosed with a learning disability.
Not sure if you need to take your child for a full eye exam? Consider a few points from the American Optometric Association:
- Typical vision screenings are a limited, non-diagnostic process. Unfortunately, this is not always communicated clearly to the general public. It creates the illusion that a child who passes a screen has no vision issues.
- Recent studies show that 11.5 percent of teenagers have undetected and / or untreated vision problems.
- A mere 14 percent of children in the US have had comprehensive eye examination by age 6, according Current Ophthalmology .
Children's Eye Care and Developement
Preparing for Your Child's First Eye Exam
First, make an appointment with a pediatric optometrist, if there is one in your area. They will be more sensitive to any fear, anxiety or behavior issues that may come up during your visit and they will be better equipped to make your child's eye exam a positive experience.
Prepare your child for the exam by explaining what will happen when they get to the eye doctor. Assure them that it will not hurt a bit and that you will stay with them the entire time. Allow your child to ask any questions and talk about any aspects of the exam that may be of concern to them. Look at photos and videos online (there are a few included here) so your child knows exactly what to expect.
Explain that the doctor will probably talk with you for awhile to get a medical history, then check your child's near and distance vision and their eye alignment. Let them know that there is no passing or failing and that they are going to see the eye doctor to keep their eyes healthy. Keep it positive and if necessary, offer a small reward or a lunch at their favorite restaurant when it's over.