Caring for young eyes
Early eye exams and vision management establish your child’s interaction with the visual world. Proper visual skills are imperative for educational and social development, impacting every aspect of your child’s life. Because the ability to see clearly is a major factor in successful development, a comprehensive eye exam detects problems with visual tracking, coordinated use of the eyes, and focusing abilities. Dr. Norris and the AccessorEyes team make each visit feel safe, enjoyable and fun for our young patients.
Pediatric Eye Exams
Children should have eye exams as part of their routine preventative medical care. Early childhood exams are also needed to make sure your child’s eyes are healthy and to rule out vision problems that may interfere with your child’s vision development, academic performance or sports vision. Certain factors may cause a child to be more at risk for eye conditions. These include premature birth, developmental delays, crossed eyes, eye injuries and a family history of eye disease.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA):
- Infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age
- Children should have additional eye exams at age 3
- And, again at about age 5 or 6, when starting kindergarten or first grade
Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn, but your baby also has to learn to see. As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby's vision develop. We encourage parents to include a trip to the optometrist on the list of baby check-ups. This commitment to early detection is the best way to ensure your child’s healthy vision for successful development, now and in the future. Dr. Norris generally refers patients under the age of 4 to Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Ophthalmology department.
When your baby is about six months, they should have a comprehensive eye exam. Things that will be tested include:
- Excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism
- Lack of eye movement ability
- Other eye health problems
These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be more easily corrected if treatment is begun early.
By Age 3
Your preschooler's should have a thorough comprehensive eye exam to make sure his/her vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, Dr. Norris can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem.
Unless recommended otherwise, your child's next eye examination should be at age five. By comparing test results of the two examinations, your optometrist can tell how well your child's vision is developing for the next major step into the school years.
During infant and toddler years, your child has been developing many vision skills. In the preschool years, this process continues, as your child develops visually-guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and the visual motor skills necessary to learn to read.
As a parent, you should watch for signs that may indicate a vision development problem, including:
- a short attention span for the child's age
- difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination in ball play and bike riding
- avoidance of coloring and puzzles and other detailed activities
Your child's vision care is essential to his or her development. Experts say that over 80 percent of what a child learns in school is presented visually, so making sure your son or daughter has good vision can make a big difference in their academic performance.
When his or her vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer. 1-in-4 children suffers from vision problems that interfere with their learning process. Children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life – academically, socially and athletically. Comprehensive eye health evaluations coupled with advanced eyewear technologies can break down these barriers and help enable your children to reach their highest potential.
Be sure to tell Dr. Norris if you child frequently:
- Loses their place while reading
- Avoids close work
- Holds reading material closer than normal
- Tends to rub their eyes
- Has headaches
- Turns or tilts head to use one eye only
- Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
- Uses finger to maintain place when reading
- Omits or confuses small words when reading
- Consistently performs below potential
Since vision changes can occur without you or your child noticing them, your child should visit the optometrist at least every two years, or more frequently, if specific problems or risk factors exist. If needed, Dr. Norris can prescribe treatment including eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy. Remember, a school vision screening or a pediatrician's screening is not a substitute for a thorough eye examination.
Please don't overlook the importance of safety eyewear when playing sports. Each year, hundreds of men, women, and children are injured when playing sports. To help prevent sports eye injuries, athletes should use protective athletic eyewear whether or not prescription eyewear is needed. Sports frames are available with or without prescription polycarbonate lenses. Baseball or softball players who are hit in or near the eye, or suffer a blow to the head, should seek immediate care at a hospital emergency room or from an eye care professional.
Children & Contact Lenses
The important thing for parents and their children who wear contact lenses to remember is that contacts are prescribed medical devices. Contact lenses are not a cosmetic accessory. While the wearer may be happy about his or her new look, it's extremely important that the lenses be properly cleaned and worn according to the instruction of Dr. Norris.
Looking toward their future
Staying on top of your child's eye health positively impacts academic performance and social development.