As a parent, you may wonder whether your pre-schooler has a vision problem or when a first eye exam should be scheduled.
Eye exams for children are extremely important. Experts say 5 to 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial because, if left untreated, some childhood vision problems can cause permanent vision loss.
When should kids have their eyes examined?
Experts with the American Optometric Association recommend that infants should have an initial eye exam by the time they are 6 months old. In addition, further eye exams are recommended at 3 years old, just before they start kindergarten or first grade, and again at age 5 or 6.
Further guidelines state that children in school should have an eye exam every 2 years after the initial one if no vision correction is required. Those who need eyeglasses should receive annual examinations, or more often if recommended by their eye doctor.
The importance of good vision in education cannot be understated. Some states require that all children have their eyes examined before they start school, so that they can enjoy all the benefits of their education. The following basic visual skills are vital for learning:
- Near vision
- Distance vision
- Eye teaming (binocularity) skills
- Eye movement skills
- Focusing skills
- Peripheral awareness
- Eye/hand coordination
When to Schedule Your Child’s Exam
Generally, your child’s primary care physician will be the first person to examine your child’s eyes. If any eye issues are found or suspected, your provider may refer your child to an ophthalmologist or optometrist for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to help them detect and diagnose potential vision problems.
Most exams cover history, vision testing, evaluation for eyeglasses if needed, Specifics of how eye exams are conducted depend on your child’s age, but an exam generally will involve a case history, testing for general vision and eye alignment, determination of whether eyeglasses are needed, evaluation of eye health, and consultation with parents. When scheduling an eye exam, be sure to pick a time when your child is likely to be rested and in a good mood.
Curious about specific eye tests for infants and children?