The eyes are the window to our soul, and they also the key to learning. Babies learn by watching and mimicking us. Preschoolers develop hand eye coordination to help with walking and school aged children need to see in order to do well at school. Kids’ eye exams are important at all stages of development to identify and correct eye health and vision issues. Often problems can be corrected if found early. When should you take your child to the eye doctor and what can you expect in a children’s eye exam? Read on to learn more…
At what age do kids have eye exams?
The first eye exam is recommended from between 6-12 months of age and yearly after that.
Baby Eye Exams
Why is it necessary for infants to have eye exams?
Visual ability can impact a child’s development. The Canadian Association of Optometrists notes that misalignment of eyes is common in babies up to six months of age. After that if your baby’s eyes still appear crossed it can lead to a condition commonly known as lazy eye. Early exams check for proper development and can correct problems before vision loss occurs.
What do baby eye exams include?
Eye exams for infants check for movement, how the eyes focus on an object, alignment, coordination and access the health of the eyes. All about Vision outlines the following tests as part of a baby’s eye exam:
- Pupil response tests- your child’s optometrist will evaluate whether the eye’s pupil opens and closes properly in the presence or absence of light.
- “Fixate and follow” testing- to determine if your baby’s eyes are able to fixate on and follow an object such as a light as it moves. (Infants should be able to fixate on an object soon after birth and follow an object by the time they are 3 months old.)
- Preferential looking- by using cards that are blank on one side with stripes on the other side to note how the infant watches the stripes to access vision capabilities without the use of a typical eye chart.
Preschooler Eye Exams
Why is it important for preschoolers to have regular eye exams?
Toddlers and preschoolers require good vision to develop skills for coordination when learning to walk or hold objects. Hand-eye coordination and proper depth perception are key components in a preschooler’s development to master skills such as playing with blocks, and drawing. Being able to complete these tasks helps with visual development. Talking to your child’s eye doctor about any issues with these skills may alert them to a vision problem. A recent CAO study showed that 10% of preschoolers have a vision deficiency and that number increases to 25% from kindergarten to grade 6. Catching problems early is the key to lifelong good vision.
How can my preschooler have an eye exam if he/she doesn’t read?
At this age, most children aren’t reading and although some may recognize letters and symbols it isn’t an accurate way to test their vision. Many parents question if their preschooler is able to have an eye exam if they can’t read the eye chart. They can, and they should! According to All About Vision, some common eye tests used specifically for young children include:
- LEA symbols- similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, except that special symbols in these tests include an apple, house, square and circle for younger children.
- Retinoscopy- simply by shining a light into the eye, your child eye doctor can observe the reflection of the retina to see if there is any clouding of the eye lens or refractive error that may affect vision
- Random dot stereopsis- this type oftesting uses special patterns of dots and 3-D glasses to measure how well your child’s eyes work together.
Eye Exams for School-Aged Children
What can I expect in a child’s eye exam?
As children age, and begin to attend school, their eye exam will include subjective vision tests to access and correct any vision problems to improve overall visual acuity. Seeing clearly is important at this age for ideal functioning in the classroom, computer work, and for extracurricular activities and sports. Your child’s eye doctor will check for:
- Vision issues/deficiency
- Eye health issues
- Colour Blindness
Teen Eye Exams
Do I still have to bring my teenager for eye exams if they don’t have any vision problems?
Once your child becomes a teenager, annual eye exams are still recommended. Your child’s eye doctor may ask lifestyle questions with regards to screen-time. Prolonged blue light exposure from cell phones and computers can impact vision and the average teen spends up to 7.5 hours a day on screens! A teen’s eye exam may include:
- A subjective refraction test
- A colour vision test
- An eye alignment test (cover test)
- A depth perception test (3D vision), as well as
- A general eye health examination (back and from eye tissue)
How much does a child’s eye exam cost?
Your eyesight is a gift. Ensuring your child has good vision for years to come will help with his/her overall development and academic performance. Be sure to follow the recommended guidelines and bring your child to a qualified optometrist for a yearly check-up to prevent and correct any vision problems that may arise.