The A, B, Cs of Early Eye Exams

Early eye health is vital to childhood development with a recommended eye exam between the ages of six to 12 months of age.

Did you know that up to 80% of classroom learning involves a child’s vision? This even includes nursery and preschool aged children. Sometimes parents believe a child is too young for an eye exam because he/she can’t read an eye chart, but this could not be further from the truth! Let’s discuss the process and importance of early eye exams, and why you should consider getting your child in for one today.

The American Optometric Association recommends an initial eye exam for children between the ages of 6 months and 12 months with a second exam between 3 and 5 years of age. After that, children aged 5 years and over should have eye exams every 2 years, or potentially more often if there are learning difficulties or complaints from the child. 

Many children with vision issues don’t realize they are struggling to see because they have grown accustom to their poor vision. Some signs that your child may need assistance, even if they do not complain, include excessive blinking and staring, eye tearing, eye rubbing, closing one eye, or tilting their head to the side often. Young children with vision problems might miss out on important childhood developments, such as connecting facial expression with emotions and the improvement of hand-eye coordination skills.

Be on the lookout for signs, but keep in mind that while we as parents might notice some vision issues, others can only be diagnosed by an eye doctor. Early detection is key for optimal diagnosis and treatment. Some vision issues can even be corrected if treated early!

RefuahHealth’s team of pediatric optometrists are trained to examine young children in a calm and playful manner. Many parents are surprised by how much information their child can provide, and even if the child is very shy, we have plenty of ways of harmlessly gathering information that require no feedback from the child at all. These objective tests are designed to make children feel comfortable throughout the exam, while providing the optometrist with as much information about the child’s vision as possible. 

While RefuahHealth’s pediatricians screen for blurry distance vision at annual well checks, these screenings do not replace a full exam in school aged children. A full eye exam looks for less obvious issues like farsightedness (which can make a child work harder when reading), nearsightedness (which can make the blackboard blurry), and astigmatism (which can blur vision everywhere). 

A full exam also assesses a child’s 3-D vision, eye teaming skills, and eye focusing skills. Many children with poor eye teaming skills will be able to read the eye chart without too many problems, but they will experience intermittent double vision when trying to learn. Children with poor eye focusing skills will often have variable vision, meaning that sometimes their vision is clear and sometimes it is blurry. Often, children with poor eye focusing skills are thought to be pretending to need glasses because, at times, the parents notice they see quite well. As the child tires out, their vision will blur. Eye tracking skills will often be checked as well, especially if a child is struggling to keep their place on the page while reading.

Early eye exams allow your provider to assess for a range of issues and provide you with the best solution for your child. If a problem is present, a treatment plan will be developed. Sometimes the solution is as simple as regular glasses. Other times, specialty lenses or vision therapy will be proscribed. 

As you can see, the importance of a full eye exam cannot be understated. Left untreated, vision issues can hinder your child’s development and negatively impact their academic endeavors. Remember, good vision is more than just seeing 20/20! Please consider scheduling an eye exam today.

Dr. Ann Nolan, OD, is a board-certified Optometrist providing onsite consultations and treatment at RefuahHealth’s Main Street location. Dr. Nolan completed her education and training at SUNY State College of Optometry and has been providing comprehensive eye care for over 10 years. 

For more information or to schedule a exam, please call 845.354.9300.