Eye Exams in Infants: Birth – 24 Months
A baby’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They have to learn to focus and move their eyes, and use them together as a team. The brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information from the eyes to understand and interact with the world. With the development of eyesight, comes also the foundation for motor development such as crawling, walking and hand-eye coordination.
You can ensure that your baby is reaching milestones by keeping an eye on what is happening with your infant’s development and by ensuring that you schedule a comprehensive infant eye exam at 6 months. At this exam, the eye doctor will check that the child is seeing properly and developing on track and look for conditions that could impair eye health or vision (such as strabismus(misalignment or crossing of the eyes), farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism).
Since there is a higher risk of eye and vision problems if your infant was born premature or is showing signs of developmental delay, your eye doctor may require more frequent visits to keep watch on his or her progress.
Eye Exams in Preschool Children: 2-5
The toddler and preschool age is a period where children experience drastic growth in intellectual and motor skills. During this time they will develop the fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and perceptual abilities that will prepare them to read and write, play sports and participate in creative activities such as drawing, sculpting or building. This is all dependent upon good vision and visual processes.
This is the age when parents should be on the lookout for signs of lazy eye (amblyopia) – when one eye doesn’t see clearly, or crossed eyes (strabismus) – when one or both eyes turns inward or outward. The earlier these conditions are treated, the higher the success rate.
Parents should also be aware of any developmental delays having to do with object, number or letter recognition, color recognition or coordination, as the root of such problems can often be visual. If you notice your child squinting, rubbing his eyes frequently, sitting very close to the tv or reading material, or generally avoiding activities such as puzzles or coloring, it is worth a trip to the eye doctor.
One of the things that is important to stress to parents of preschool aged children is that a comprehensive eye exam is very important. The screenings that are done in the pediatricians office are often only done for aged four and up and in those cases sometimes the people doing the screenings are not necessarily trained to watch for some of the common things that little preschool aged kids do. So they may try and cheat on the eye exam, but that is really important to pick up. The reason being is that a lot of the learning starts at that preschool age, they are engaged in their up close environment and testing distance chart to see whether they can see 2020 in the distance does not give us any information about where their world is, which is right immediately in front of them. So a comprehensive exam it is important to check how they are seeing up close and how they are engaging with the world up close. Again we want to find out if there is an eye that is weaker than the other.
Because those are all things that we want to learn and develop appropriately as they grow. There is a lot of research that points to the fact that if you are a preschool aged student and you are slowly developing learning delays it really effects you years and years to come.A lot of those effects come from vision, because 80% or more of what we learn comes through your eyes. So it is really important to get a comprehensive eye exam. At Family Eye Care Center Of Atlanta we see kids as young as six months of age. But our preschoolers are really near and dear to our heart. Because we really want to ensure that their development is appropriate for years and years of learning to come.
Why You Should Not Rely On A School Vision Screening
We have my son Langston here doing his comprehensive evaluation before he starts school this fall, he is 3 years old. And I am using this time to discuss why it is important for him to have a comprehensive eye exam rather than a regular school vision screening. With the vision screening, often the requirement is that the preschool aged child is positioned a few feet away from a distance eye chart and is asked to read one eye at a time what is on the chart. And hopefully pass the test with 20/30 20/40 or better vision. At 3 years old, in the state of Georgia, it is not a requirement that they do this or that the school has this.
Which is why I want to talk about how important it is to not only do that, but to know how your preschooler is functioning. A preschooler, most of their world is close distance, so things within arms reach is normally where they will be working. So having a vision test from a few feet away will miss even small amounts of farsightedness, which will wreak havoc on preparing to learn and preparing to learn how to read numbers or letters. That’s one of the important things that is commonly missed. Another thing, when you are testing a toddler’s vision one eye at a time, it does not show you how they function in an environment where they are using both eyes at the same time. It shows you how each eye works on its own, but not together, and that’s not their real world. We want to know how a preschooler is functioning visually because that is how they will do most of their learning from preschool going forward.
So it is really important to know, not just what their prescription for glasses is, but are their eyes working together or is their a diagnosis that causes one eye to bully another eye which affects how they see space. So these are some of the details which we would uncover in a comprehensive eye examination or a functional eye evaluation should their be a functional deficit, and this is why I feel strongly about getting your preschoolers a comprehensive eye exam.
Eye Exams in School-Aged Children: Ages 6-18
Undetected or uncorrected vision problems can cause children and teens to suffer academically, socially, athletically and personally. If your child is having trouble in school or afterschool activities there could be an underlying vision problem. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are dependent upon not only good vision, but also the ability of your eyes to work together. Children that have problems with focusing, reading, teaming their eyes or hand-eye coordination will often experience frustration, and may exhibit behavioral problems as well. Often they don’t know that the vision they are experiencing is abnormal, so they aren’t able to express that they need help.
In addition to the symptoms written above, signs of vision problems in older children include:
- Short attention span
- Frequent blinking
- Avoiding reading
- Tilting the head to one side
- Losing their place often while reading
- Double vision
- Poor reading comprehension
The Eye Exam
In addition to basic visual acuity (distance and near vision) an eye exam may assess the following visual skills that are required for learning and mobility:
- Binocular vision: how the eyes work together as a team
- Peripheral Vision
- Color Vision
- Hand-eye Coordination
The doctor will also examine the area around the eye and inside the eye to check for any eye diseases or health conditions. You should tell the doctor any relevant personal history of your child such as a premature birth, developmental delays, family history of eye problems, eye injuries or medications the child is taking. This would also be the time to address any concerns or issues your child has that might indicate a vision problem.
If the eye doctor does determine that your child has a vision problem, they may discuss a number of therapeutic options such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, an eye patch, vision therapy or Ortho-k, depending on the condition and the doctor’s specialty. Since some conditions are much easier to treat when they are caught early while the eyes are still developing, it is important to diagnose any eye and vision issues as early as possible.
Following the guidelines for children’s eye exams and staying alert to any signs of vision problems can help your child to reach his or her potential.