Children's Eye Examinations

From our earliest moments we are using our eyes to assess the world around us.  We use our eyes to learn and to develop, to comminicate and to protect ourselves.  Good eyesight and healthy eyes are critical to help optimal learning and development from our earliest days and throughout our schooling, this is why regular eye exams for children are essential.

One question we often get asked is "How do you examine children's eyes when they can't read yet?".  There are many different ways that we can assess children's eyes without having to get them to read letters.  When we are examining children's eyes, we try to make the whole experience a fun and enjoyable time for the children, it will almost seem like we are simply playing some different games and having fun.  By ensuring that the experience is an enjoyable one, we know that children will be happy to come back again and again and this makes having the regular appointments necessary throughout their childhood and school years easily manageable.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends that infants should be seen by 6 months, toddlers by 3 years and just before they enter school.  Once they are in school children should have their eyes examined annually.  These are minimum frequency guidelines and at times we also tailor the frequency of eye examinations to suit a particular child.

Some more interesting facts from the CAO:

"Did you know?

Classroom learning is 80 per cent visual, which means that if your child isn’t seeing well, they’re not able to perform up to their potential. Right now almost 25 per cent of children have undetected vision problems that are holding them back. Don’t take the fact that your child can see as reassurance that their vision skills are adequately developed – it could be an assumption that affects how well they are able to learn. Maturing and changing eyes need to be monitored to ensure that they are developing properly.

 

The good news is it’s easy to make sure your child is seeing efficiently and clearly. The first step is to see an optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination before they start school.

Child in exam chair

The optometrist will check that your child has the basic vision skills – these can include:

  •     Near vision: the ability to see clearly and comfortably at 25 – 30cm
  •     Distance vision: the ability to see well beyond arms reach
  •     Binocular coordination: the ability of the eyes to work together and perceive depth
  •     Eye movement skills: enable the eyes to aim accurately, move smoothly across a page and shift quickly from one object to another
  •     Focusing skills: enable both eyes to accurately focus at the proper distance, to see clearly and change focus quickly (example, from desk to chalkboard and back)
  •     Peripheral awareness: the ability to be aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead
  •     Eye-hand coordination: the ability to use the eyes and hands together

If any of these skills are lacking, your child will try to compensate. This could result in frustration, headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain symptoms.

Be alert for symptoms

Children rarely complain of vision problems or are aware of them. They may also appear to see perfectly well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is okay. Look for everyday signs that your child may need help with their vision and ensure that they have a regular eye health check-up.

Does your child…

  •     perform below his or her school potential,
  •     tend to avoid ‘close’ work or dislike reading,
  •     lose his or her place while reading,
  •     omit or confuse small words when reading,
  •     use a finger to keep track of where they are while reading,
  •     make frequent reversals when reading or writing,
  •     hold reading material closer than usual,
  •     turn or tilt his or her head to use only one eye,
  •     have red, itchy or watery eyes, or
  •     have frequent headaches.

Then it might be time to see an optometrist!"

Here's a video from the Canadian Doctors of Optometry YouTube channel released specifically for Children's Vision Month 2013: