It is very important every child has their annual vision exam. Early detection and treatment of certain vision problems can prevent vision loss in the future.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam by at 6 months of age. Then at 3 years of age, and just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade. (www.aoa.org)
No matter the age, when scheduling your child’s appointment, try to make sure it will be a time your child will be more happy or cooperative. Depending on the age, there will be different tests performed during the exam. In all exams, be prepared to let your doctor know if your child was premature, has any delayed motor development, you are noticing any eye strain or fatigue, has poor visual concentration or tracking skills, or whether your child has failed any eye exam at school or the pediatrician’s office. You will also want to alert the doctor of any family history of eye problems or eye diseases.
Checking an infant’s eyes involves light. Their eyes are still developing, and it is important to make sure they are doing so normally. The doctor will check for pupil response to light, whether it opens and closes appropriately. They may also use a small light to check the baby’s ability to ‘fixate and follow’ the source. By the time your infant is around 3 months old, they should already be able focus and follow and object.
For children a little older, yet still not able to communicate, a chart with shapes and symbols rather than the alphabet is used. Random dot stereopsis uses dot patterns to check depth perception and the way the eyes focus together. Retinoscopy is a test in which a light is shined into the eye to examine the way it reflects from the retina. If a child needs any vision correction, this can help determine the prescription.
There are many important skills children must learn to maintain their ability to learn. These included: near vision; distance vision; eye teaming skills; eye movement skills; focusing skills; peripheral awareness; eye/hand coordination. It is just as important to make sure these skills are developing properly as it is to check for any of the common problems found in young children. Some of these include: amblyopia (lazy eye); strabismus (the misalignment of the eyes); convergence insufficiency (the inability to maintain focus on any items at close range), and focusing problems.