Eye Exams for Children

As a parent, you may wonder whether your preschooler has a vision problem or when a first eye exam should be scheduled. Eye exams for children are extremely important. Experts say 5% to 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child’s vision problem is crucial because, if left untreated, some childhood vision problems can cause permanent vision loss.

When should kids have their eyes examined?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should receive additional eye exams at 3 years of age, and just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or according to their eye doctor’s recommendations. School screenings are not adequate and often miss vision issues.

Taking your children to an eye doctor, and having an early eye exam is very important because children need the following basic visual skills for learning:

  • Near vision

  • Distance vision

  • Eye teaming (binocularity) skills

  • Eye movement skills

  • Focusing skills

  • Peripheral awareness

  • Eye/hand coordination

Because of the importance of good vision for learning, some states require an eye exam for all children entering school for the first time.

Scheduling Eye Exam for Your Child

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says on its website that your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral might be made to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems.

When scheduling an eye exam for your child, choose a time when he or she usually is alert and happy.

Specifics of how eye exams are conducted depend on your child’s age, but generally the exams will include a case history, vision testing, determination of whether eyeglasses are needed, testing of eye alignment, an eye health evaluation and, if needed, prescription of eyewear.

Your eye doctor may ask whether complications occurred during the pregnancy or delivery. Other questions will concern your child’s medical history, including current medications and past or present allergies.

Be sure to tell your eye doctor if your child has or displays any of the following:

  •  A history of prematurity

  •  Delayed motor development

  •  Frequent eye rubbing

  •  Excessive blinking

  •  Failure to maintain eye contact

  •  Inability to maintain a gaze (fixation) while looking at objects

  •  Poor eye tracking skills

Also, be sure to mention if your child has failed a vision screening at school or during a visit to his or her pediatrician.

For more information on vision services for your child,

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 An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired. Of these, 12 million children are visually impaired due to refractive errors, a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected. 1.4 million are irreversibly blind for the rest of their lives and need visual rehabilitation interventions for a full psychological and personal development.