When Should a Child Have Their First Eye Exam?
If you want to set your child up for optimal learning experiences, then good vision is a critical aspect that needs to be considered. In fact, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has said that up to 80% of a child’s learning happens through the eyes.
It’s easy for parents to assume that their child’s eyes are fine. But is it possible that your child’s life is being hindered because of vision problems?
Don’t take any risks. Regular eye exams for children are the best solution for early detection of eye conditions. When your child has an eye checkup, you can be confident in knowing that they are enjoying their best possible vision.
Why Are Early Eye Exams Important?
There is a lot going on in a young child’s life, and the earliest years are critical for development. Not only is the child entering school, but they are also continuing to learn through social interactions and other life skills.
Whether the child is at home, at a friend’s house, playing at the park, or at school, their eyes are constantly working.
Vision isn’t only about whether they can see clearly. Good eyesight also ensures that they have the ability to understand and respond to the things they are encountering.
While most people talk about eye exams to determine whether a person needs eyeglasses, these appointments are for preventive care as well. Regardless of the diagnosis, early intervention is always the best solution to improve long-term outcomes.
A Child’s Eye Exam Schedule
Both the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that the first vision appointment should happen by age one. This eye exam should be comprehensive and look for vision issues, as well as other problems with eye tracking, alignment, and more.
Then, the second appointment should happen between the ages of 3 to 5 – before a child goes to kindergarten.
After the child starts school, it is recommended to maintain annual eye exams. When specific risk factors are present, or the child has been diagnosed with certain eye issues, then the child might need more frequent eye exams.
Higher Risk Children Need Eye Exams
While early eye exams are important for all children, there are a few indications that increase the need for a child to have their eyes checked:
- A close family member (such as a parent or sibling) has eye problems, such as myopia or any other eye condition
- A pediatrician identified signs of eye issues
- Parents suspect that the child’s vision might be affected
If there is any sign that the child might be struggling with their vision, then it’s best to visit an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Even children who have no detectable symptoms of eye problems should have regular eye exams. It’s possible that there might be a problem with the child’s eyes, even though no obvious symptoms are present.
Common Vision Problems in Children
Myopia, also called nearsightedness, is the most common vision problem in children. A child can have other vision problems, such as:
- Eye coordination
- Eye tracking
- Eye focusing
A comprehensive eye exam includes a full range of testing to evaluate the child’s vision, as well as the way the eyes are working together.
Additionally, we offer preventive services to protect the child’s eyes. During the appointment the eye doctor can discuss certain lifestyle factors, such as the child’s participation in outdoor or indoor sports. Protective eyewear, with or without a prescription, is essential to protect the eyes while the child is in the game.
School Vision Screenings Aren’t Enough
Many schools do annual vision screenings, but these screenings aren’t a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam. Most school screenings only evaluate distance visual acuity.
Even if a child is determined to have 20/20 vision in a school screening, it’s possible they still might have a vision problem.
Vision skills for successful learning, reading, and development require much more than 20/20 vision. Tracking, focusing, and eye teaming, and other factors can influence the child’s ability to learn.
Signs of Childhood Vision Problems
The lack of certain vision skills has an undeniable impact on the child’s learning, making the school experience both stressful and difficult. Often, the child doesn’t say anything about their vision problems because they don’t understand that their vision is different from their peers.
Parents should watch for these signs of vision problems in childhood:
- Frequent blinking or eye rubbing
- Complaining about fatigue or discomfort
- Shorter attention span than normal
- The child avoids reading
- One eye is turning out or in
- Covering one eye
- The child often loses their place while reading
- Reading comprehension is low
- Sits close to the TV or holds books close to their face
- Frequent headaches
Vision Skills Every Child Needs
Here is an overview of vision skills that are important for every child to have:
- Visual Acuity: The most obvious reason to schedule an eye exam. The child needs to have clear distance vision so they can see the chalkboard/whiteboard and other objects at a distance. Additionally, each child needs intermediate vision for seeing computers and TV screens, as well as close vision for reading.
- Eye Tracking: Both eyes need to be able to stay on target when the child is moving their focus from one object to another. For example, can the child’s eyes follow a moving target, such as a ball that is flying through the air? Can the child’s eyes follow the words on a printed page?
- Eye Focusing: Eyes need to be able to adjust quickly when moving to objects at different distances. For example, when a child’s focus moves from the whiteboard to a paper on their desk, can the eyes quickly and accurately adjust to allow clear vision in both places? Focusing affects the child’s ability to maintain clear vision while participating in schoolwork and other life activities.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: Visual information is necessary to help the child with physical movements. Whether the child is trying to hit a ball or use a pencil to write on a piece of paper, hand-eye coordination allows them to use visual information to learn and apply these skills.
- Eye Teaming: The next thing to consider is how the child is able to use both eyes together. Not only does eye teaming affect the ability to move the eyes along text in a book, but eye teaming is also necessary for depth perception. Good teaming allows the child to judge distances, which can affect both schoolwork and sports participation.
- Visual Perception: In addition to focusing on the printed page, the eyes also need to be able to organize the information into letters, numbers, and words. Good visual perception affects a child’s ability to understand what they are seeing, tell the difference between symbols, and retain the information.
During a comprehensive eye exam, we look at all of these essential visual factors to determine if your child needs any treatments to optimize their vision.
Schedule a Pediatric Eye Exam
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