When should you take your child in for their first eye exam? Unsure of the answer? Many parents are. Some children, such as those who are born premature, require an eye exam before they leave the hospital. But what about those children who do not require an eye exam in the hospital, when should they visit their pediatric eye doctor? One month, one year, ten years old, when they complain about their vision? Let's clear up this question for all new parents.
Eyecare should be part of everyone's preventative health care routine; and kids are no exception. Many parents assume that if their child doesn't complain about their vision it means that everything is okay. If a child is born with a vision problem they begin adapting from day one, which allows them to hide a vision problem from even the most observant parents. Every day we see children for their first eye exam. Some are a few months old and others are a few years old (some are even parents who never received an eye exam as a kid). Parents are consistently surprised to discover that their child has a high prescription, amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (eye turn) or congenital eye conditions.
Eye exams with a pediatric optometrist or pediatric ophthalmologist is an important part of your child's health care routine. A vision problem affects much more than your child's ability to see the 20/20 row. Vision is our dominant sense and we use it from day one to explore and learn. Poor vision can prevent a child from seeing what their parents truly look like. A vision problem can even limit a child's overall development. A child uses their vision to explore their environment. If they are unable to see an object and become interested in it, they will not attempt to crawl towards it. Visual exploration leads to physical exploration. Studies of visually impaired infants has shown significant differences in mobility and exploration patterns. Poor vision can limit visual-motor exploration. Think your language development can withstand poor vision? Think again. Poor vision can inhibit sight-sound connections that are used in the development of language skills.
When your child enters school their visual demands go through the roof. 80% or more of what children learn occurs through the visual system. In fact, 1 in 4 children have a vision problem significant enough to impair their learning. How important is vision? Close your eyes and take a class. Children with vision problems can have a difficult time learning new information.
So if a child is so dependent on their vision from day 1, when should they have an eye examination with a Residency-Trained Pediatric Optometrist or Pediatric Ophthalmologist?
The American Optometric Association recommends the first eye examination at 6-9 months. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends an eye examination in the newborn period. This first eye examination is important to identify childhood vision problems that can impact a child's development and their ability to see 20/20 later in life.
The second eye examination for a healthy child is recommended at 3-years old. Your child is growing and changing – so is their vision. The purpose of the second eye examination is to insure that your child's vision is developing appropriately and that they are acquiring new visual skills as they are getting mobile.
The next eye examination is recommended at 5-years-old. The primary focus of this eye examination is to ensure that your child is ready for school. A pediatric optometrist will assess the several visual skills that are required to be a successful student. Upon entering school, your child will begin a schedule of annual eye examinations. The demands of life increase each year and your child's vision must continue to develop at a very fast rate to keep up.
Many eye doctors who spend their days seeing adults are not familiar with the testing techniques necessary to evaluate developing children. It is important to take your child to a Residency-Trained Pediatric Optometrist so that age-appropriate testing can be done. Without the care of a Residency-Trained Pediatric Optometrist, your child's vision problems could be undiagnosed or mis-diagnosed.
Check out our blog on pediatric vision care.