The Canadian Association of Optometrists has declared October Children’s Vision Month. In their words, “Regardless of your age or physical health, an annual comprehensive eye exam helps detect vision issues at an early stage, improving treatment options.” That is why they recommend that a child’s first visit to the optometrist should be between six and nine months of age, the second visit at age three, the third just before he/she begins school, then annually thereafter until age 18.
Why Should my Baby Visit the Optometrist?
Although a small child will be unable to read an eye chart, there are a number of other tests that can be done to make sure that your child’s eyes are developing properly. Your optometrist can test for myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, as well as assuring that your child has proper eye and muscle movement and alignment and all around good eye health. If there are any early eye conditions detected at this early stage, they have a much better chance of being corrected.
What Does the Optometrist Look for in the Three Year Old Visit?
Along with making sure that your child’s eyes are developing correctly, the three year old visit is the one most likely to pick up on conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (crossed eyes). Early detection and treatment of these conditions is often the best way to resolve them without permanent damage to the child’s vision.
Assuring that Your Child’s Eyes are School Ready
For optimal learning, it is recommended that you have your child’s eyes tested before his/her first day of school. It would not be the first time that what was considered to be a learning or behavioural problem by school staff actually turned out to be a vision related problem. Approximately 80% of a child’s ability to learn is visual. In short, optimal vision equals optimal learning ability. Children often won’t realize that they have a vision problem, so when they have trouble reading a book, video screen or white board, their natural reaction will be to get restless, or to focus on something less difficult to look at. Trouble at school may be overcome, simply by a visit to the optometrist and, potentially, a prescription for corrective lenses. Just remember that if corrective lenses are required, get your child’s input when purchasing them. The more they feel part of the purchase, the more likely that their glasses will be worn.
What Should I Watch out for With My Child’s Vision?
Between visits to your optometrist, pay attention for eye problems that your child may have. Things to watch out for include: squinting or rubbing their eyes, excessive blinking, red, itchy, watering eyes, light sensitivity, holding books or objects close to the face, or avoiding reading, sitting very close to the television or avoiding TV entirely. Lack of concentration, irritation or frustration when working on projects may also be a sign. You should also be aware of how much time they spend on the computer, on smart phones, tablets or playing video games, as blue light from these devices could cause problems in their developing eyes, not to mention affecting their sleep patterns. If you notice any potential vision problems, don’t wait for your child’s next eye exam, book an appointment with your optometrist immediately. Don’t take any chances with your child’s eyes.