Parents are always worrying. Are our children eating healthy foods? Are they getting enough sleep? Are they getting a cold? One worry that parents commonly have as their children enter school is about vision. Many times parents begin to wonder if their child is squinting and having a hard time seeing the words in books or sentences on the board right around the time when their child enters preschool or elementary school. According to the Annals of Family Medicine, 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems.
Due to this statistic, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6. For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.
Pediatric Vision exams are pretty painless and can help start children off right in school. If a child can not see the board or words in a book, they could potentially have delays in reading and language development. The following items will be checked in a pediatric exam: near vision, distance vision, binocular (two eyes) coordination, eye movement skills, focusing skills, peripheral awareness, and hand-eye coordination. Visual acuity should be tested as soon as the child is old enough to cooperate with an eye exam using an eye chart. Photoscreening is another way to check visual acuity that does not require a young child to cooperate with the test. Either approach to testing will determine whether the child can focus normally at far, middle and near distances.
As parents, you may want to prepare your child, depending upon the age for the exam. For very young children, you may want to play “eye exam” to help them get used to the idea that someone is going to be looking at their eyes. For older children, explain that these tests are not going to hurt but will help the doctor find out more about their eyes and how well they see. Show your child a picture of the machines that may be used by “googling” eye exam. These machines can look like something from out-of-this-world so, it is good to prepare the child in advance. Another method that works is by bringing your child to your eye exams in advance to show them what the experience is like.