With so many items to check off your list of parenting musts, it’s easy for something as seemingly ordinary as having your child’s eyes examined to slip off the radar. When should you take your child and how often should you go? How do you choose an eye doctor? How do you know if your child suffers from vision loss? Though the questions may seem overwhelming, the process need not be complicated.
When to Go
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have their first eye exam as early as six months of age. Don’t worry if you have missed this time frame. The next recommended time for an exam is during the preschool years at about age three and then once again before kindergarten or first grade, which is age five or six.
Regardless of where your child is along this continuum, try to get an exam scheduled as soon as possible to ensure that vision problems don’t become a permanent issue.
Scheduling an Exam
Generally, your child’s pediatrician will examine his or her eyes during a routine physical. If any problems are detected, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a follow-up visit.
For best results, schedule your exam for a time of day when your child is happy and alert. Right before naptime would not be ideal.
Basic visual skills are necessary for successful learning. These will be assessed during your child’s eye exam.
- Near and far vision
- Eye teaming
- Eye movement
- Focusing ability
- Peripheral awareness
- Hand/eye coordination
What to Expect
Exam specifics will vary depending on your child’s age. Typically, an eye exam will involve the same components.
- Overall health history
- Vision testing
- Eye alignment assessment
- Eye health exam
- Consultation to determine how to proceed
Be sure to tell your eye doctor about any known health conditions, including issues in utero, a family history of eye problems, or if you have noticed any symptoms, such as frequent eye rubbing, excessive blinking, or failure to maintain eye contact.
If eyeglasses are not needed, you can plan to visit your eye doctor every two years. For children with eye health or vision issues, examinations should be conducted every year.