How will I know if my child has vision problems?
Since babies and young children cannot tell you if they are having problems, they should be seen by an eye doctor. Mark it on your calendar. Your baby’s first visit to their optometrist should be when he/she is 6 months old! Your child should be examined again by age 3, before they enter kindergarten and every year after that. Click here for tips to make your first visit easier.
My child shows no obvious signs of vision problems… does she still need an eye exam?
Yes! Children don’t know what ‘normal’ vision is, so they usually don’t mention if they have a visual problem. One example is a condition called amblyopia, which occurs when one eye fails to develop properly. Because the other eye usually works fine, parents often don’t notice there is a problem. The earlier it is detected, the better chance it can be corrected, which is why all children should have an eye exam at an early age. Click here for more information on vision warning signs.
My child’s vision screening shows he has 20/20 vision; do I still need a full eye exam?
Yes! Good vision involves many different skills working together to enable your child not only to see clearly but also to understand and learn from what he sees. Click here for more information.
Why are early eye exams important?
From birth to about age 5 your baby will make sophisticated leaps in vision that are very much like the leaps they’ll make in crawling, walking and talking. During the first five years your child will learn lifelong vision skills – accurately or inaccurately. It’s the development of these skills that lays the foundation for one of their most precious gifts – their vision. An eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) can test your child’s eyes even if your child does not read or know their ABC’s. An eye doctor will use shapes, animals and other child-friendly ways to evaluate vision and eye health. Children do not need a referral to have an appointment with an optometrist.
Tips To Make Your First Visit Easier:
Make The First Visit Enjoyable.
- Work around fussy times. Make your appointment at a time when baby is usually happy.
- Ask for paperwork to be sent to you before the appointment so it can be filled out at home and brought to the appointment.
- Pat yourself on the back for knowing how vital this first eye exam is!
What Will An Optometrist Do To Check My Baby’s Vision?
- He/she will test for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
- He/she will check eye movement ability as well as eye health problems.
- He/she will do it all in a way that will make you and your baby comfortable and at ease
Child Eye Examination Frequency
By 6 months of age: Your baby’s first visit to their optometrist should be when he/she is 6 months old!
By 3 years of age
Your child should have their second thorough eye examination. Your optometrist will reassess your child’s visual system to confirm the absence of any eye disease, as well as monitor the continued growth and efficiency of their visual skill development. This is also the examination where eye muscle problems such as crossed-eyes (strabismus) and lazy eye (amblyopia) are carefully assessed.
The best news is that with early detection and treatment, many vision problems are REVERSIBLE and in some cases PREVENTABLE!
Your child should visit the optometrist before their first day of school. Through these important years your child’s eyes will gain all the necessary vision skills needed to be ready for reading! This is an important appointment because it assures you that your child’s eyes are ready for their next big challenge – school.
Preschool Age Children and Up
- Avoids books, colouring or close activities.
- Holds books or other objects too close.
- Squinting, rubbing or excessive blinking.
- Sits close to TV.
- Covering one eye, an eye that turns, or a head tilt to use one eye only to look at something.
- Headaches, blurred or double vision.
- Burning, itchy, watering or light sensitive eyes.
- Hyperactive, irritability, frustration or short attention span.
- Inability to catch, build, balance or do other eye-hand coordination activities.
- Family history of lazy eye or other eye conditions.
School Age Children
- Uses a finger to maintain their place while reading.
- Makes reversals when reading or writing.
- Short attention span while reading.
- Omits or confuses small words when reading.
- Loses his or her place while reading.
- Closes one eye while reading.
- Performs below potential.
- Tilting of head.
- Holds book too close.
- Avoidance of near work.
- Headaches, dizziness, nausea or fatigue.
- Any of the symptoms under pre-school children.
Fast Facts On Sun
Did You Know? Children whose unprotected eyes are exposed repeatedly to sunlight are more susceptible to serious damage leading to cataracts, macular degeneration and other major eye diseases later in life.
Protect Your Child’s Eyes. Make Sunglasses A Habit!
- Sunglasses must be both UVA and UVB protective. Let your children choose the ones they want so they will be more likely to wear them.
- Check out sports sunglasses and spectacle lenses that are made with polycarbonate material, which is the most impact resistant lens
- Wide-brimmed hats or baseball caps can provide protection from the sun if your children don't like to wear sunglasses.
- Model positive behavior for your children by always wearing your sunglasses and hat when outside.
- Children still need to wear sunglasses or a hat on overcast days because harmful rays also come through clouds.
- Children should be taught to never look directly or stare into the sun,
Fast Facts On Learning
Did You Know?
Vision Screening vs. Eye Examination?
- 20/20 eyesight does not equal good vision; vision is a set of skills that develop over time.
- Don’t assume your child has good vision because they pass a vision screening with 20/20. A 20/20 score only means that a child can see a certain size of detail at 20 feet for a short period of time. It does not relate to any of the other vision skills needed for learning and is not a guarantee that your child’s eyes are healthy and disease free.
- Vision screenings are not a substitute for a thorough eye examination by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist).
I See. I Learn.
- Over 80% of a child’s learning is based on vision.
- 25% of grade school children have vision problems that stop them from being as successful as they could be in learning and reading. If vision problems remain untreated, kids who are packed with potential may be left lagging behind in learning.
- Not knowing any different, many of these children accept poor vision and other eye ailments as normal. If left unchecked, serious long-term effects can result.
- Over 60% of students identified as having learning difficulties have undetected vision problems.
- Of those 60%, the majority would have passed a conventional school vision-screening test.
- One in six children diagnosed with a learning disability actually has a correctable vision problem.
Your care and concern for your child's vision can enrich his or her future while helping develop eye care habits for a lifetime of good vision.
Adapted from the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the British Columbia Association of Optometrists websites.
For more information on your child’s vision visit:
Thank you to Coastal Eye Care Centre’s Dr. Tanya Flood for her expertise in helping develop the “Your Child’s Vision and Eye Health” pages.