This is a tough one to gauge as a parent. Your child has nothing to compare his vision to unless his eyesight changed due to trauma. He might think this is just how everyone sees the world! As a parent, there are some signs you can look for that will clue you in to making a doctor's appointment sooner than later.
"A child's most valuable learning tool is their vision," said Danny Ngo, OD and Chief of Optometry at Kaiser Permanente in California. "It's estimated that as much as 80 percent of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes. And yet a child's vision can be overlooked."
When should my child have their vision tested? The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology recommends the first screening occur within the first year. Those screenings should be performed regularly, having the next exam before he or she turns three. That is, so long as your child passes the first screening without difficulty and doesn't present any of the warning signs to vision impairment.
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As a parent, there's not much you can do to test your child at home. Leave that to the doctor! You can, however, observe your older child for symptoms like the ones suggested by Dr. Ngo:
- Frequent squinting
- Looking out of one eye
- Tilting the head to see something
- Frequent headaches
- Eye turning in or out (lazy eye)
- Holding reading materials too close to the face
- Losing their place while reading
- Avoids reading or has difficulty reading
Babies and toddlers have fewer symptoms for several reasons, including the fact that a baby's eyesight is still developing after birth and obviously, toddlers aren't reading yet! Patti Fries OD, FAAO and assistant professor at UNMC Truhlsen Eye Institute provides a list of actions parents can tune into to detect vision issues.
For babies, look for the following:
- Lack of response to visual stimuli
- Not making eye contact with a target
- Missing milestones of reaching for and grasping items
- Absence of a blink reflex when objects are brought near the eyes
- Excessive eye rubbing
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In toddlers, you might notice these problems:
- Showing aversion to visual activities (watching TV, looking at books and pictures or flashcards)
- Unable to recognize faces across a room
- Prefers sitting very close to objects or bringing them very close for viewing
- Excessive eye rubbing
If you think your child is exhibiting these symptoms regularly, it's time to contact your eye doctor. You can get referrals from your child's pediatrician or ask if your eye doctor sees children. You can make the appointment with an optometrist, who although is not a medical doctor, can detect vision problems, prescribe lenses and medications. If your child needs surgery or special vision care, they'll be referred to an ophthalmologist at that point.
Once you've made the appointment, you can expect the optometrist to look at your child's eyes with a light and use a painless and quick photo screening to gather information. Older kids might be asked to focus on objects or letters and give a verbal report of what they see. The vision screening is very straightforward and can often be completed in your pediatrician's office. Comprehensive eye exams are only necessary if they fail the vision screening or have a medical family history of poor vision in early years. (via AAPOS)