Preparing for your child’s first eye exam

Many parents schedule their child’s first eye exam when they notice changes in their behaviors like squinting and holding items too close. However, a wide variety of eye related issues common in children aren’t always obvious and noticeable to parents.  This is why the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that children have their eyes examined by an eye care professional between 6 to 9 months of age. Many eye conditions can only be detected during these objective exams.  A child’s ocular health and vision is critical during the early years of development.

Yearly exams are recommended for school aged children.  It is important to ensure that children are able to see well during their first years in school. Children with poor vision may not realize that something is “blurry” because to them, their world has only ever appeared that way. Children with eye conditions and blurry vision may avoid reading, lose attention during school related tasks, or even become sleepy when attempting to read.  In fact, many children who are diagnosed with learning disabilities actually have undiagnosed vision related problems.  Poor and uncomfortable vision is known to cause behavioral and attention issues in the classroom as well.

What do Optometrists/ Ophthalmologists look for during my child’s eye exam? 

Eye care professionals are trained to assess children’s eye health objectively so they do not need to know their ABC’s before getting their first eye exam.  Below is a list of eye conditions that children are screened for during their exams. 

  • Refractive error:  These are conditions that are corrected by eyeglasses and they include farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism
  • Eye turns/ Crossed Eyes (Strabismus):  It is important that eyes are aligned from a young age to ensure proper depth perception and to avoid development of a lazy eye. 
  • Lazy Eye (Amblyopia): A lazy eye means that one eye cannot see as well as the other, even with the appropriate lenses in place.  This can be caused by a large glasses prescription left undetected or an eye turn. This condition can be resolved if treated at a young age. 
  • Ocular health: Children are at a higher risk of certain eye diseases including, but not limited to: intraocular tumors, retinopathy of prematurity and blocked tear ducts

Tips for your child’s first eye exam:

  • Book their eye appointment at the time of day where your child is at their best. It can be difficult to examine squirming or crying children.
  • Practice covering one of their eyes at a time
  • Explain that guessing is OK at the eye exam and that there are no wrong answers for the letters/ shapes they may be asked to identify
  • Be prepared with your child’s medical history, family history and to explain any eye-related behaviors you have observed (excessive blinking, eye rubbing, eye turns, etc.)

My child already has glasses, do they still need their eyes examined yearly?

Yes! Children’s eyes change rapidly while they are growing and their glasses prescription can change too!

Eye exams may be covered by Health Care depending on where you live!

This post was authored by Dr. Kennedy Antoniuk. Dr. Antoniuk attended Pacific University in Oregon where she received her Bachelor of Science in Vision Science and later graduated with distinction from the Doctor of Optometry program. Her optometric interests include sports vision training and specialty contact lenses.

References

  1. Canadian Association of Optometrists
  2. Alberta Association of Optometrists

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