Eye exam time for your little one? No need to fear: With a little preparation on the part of Mom and Dad, the annual trip to the optometrist for your children’s eye exams can be enjoyable—as well as informative and essential.
Kids’ Eye Exams: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Them
Children’s eye exams should be a back-to-school ritual just like shopping for school supplies and that perfect first-day outfit. Our eyes are perhaps our most important learning tools, and difficulties with eyesight can impact our kids academically as well as socially and athletically. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 25 percent of school-age children have vision problems—and eye troubles are associated with an estimated 60 percent of learning disabilities. It’s critical to identify certain issues as early as possible, as young eyes often respond better to early correction and treatment and often eye problems in kids are easily resolved with children’s eyewear.
Even though your child’s school nurse will often perform a vision screening, these eye tests mainly determine visual acuity. But a child with 20/20 vision could still have an eyesight issue. That’s why it’s essential for kids to have a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. Beyond just visual acuity in eye exams for kids, an eye doctor can look for issues such as eye tracking and coordination problems, as well as eye imbalances such as strabismus (aka “wandering eyes”) and amblyopia (“lazy eye”).
Getting Ready for Your Child’s Eye Exam
Before you bring your child for an eye exam, it’s important to talk to him or her about what will happen and what to expect. Here’s your chance to get your kids interested and even excited about their eye health! You can describe cool exe exam machines like the autorefractor, which measures astigmatism and determines nearsightedness and farsightedness, and the phoropter, which looks like a big telescope and helps determine your eyeglass prescription (should you need one).
Just like adults, children will be asked to read an eye chart—but for preschool kids who have not yet learned the alphabet, the chart might have symbols (circle, triangle, heart, etc.) instead of letters. Optometrists for kids will also test for color vision to check for any eye problems in seeing colors correctly. Many of these eye exam tests are like games, in which children are asked to look at shapes and colors and then name what they see. Your child might be asked to don 3D glasses and look at a pattern of dots for a test called random dot stereopsis, which determines how well the eyes work together. Eye exam tests like these help identify problems with focusing ability, depth perception, and eye alignment (or convergence)—necessary for everything from physical coordination to reading ability.
Finally, it might be determined that your child needs glasses, but they need not be disappointed. Get your child excited about the wide selection of frames and styles available, and be sure to involve them in the process of choosing their glasses for kids. Kids who pick their glasses are more likely to wear them. And once they see how clear and crisp the world looks through their new children’s eyewear, they’ll never want to take them off.
Find a store and make an appointment for your child today with a Cohen’s eye doctor.