You take your child to the pediatrician regularly and visit the dentist two times a year, but what about the eye doctor? Eye exams are essential pieces of your child's preventive health schedule. Making a regular visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist helps to make sure that your child's eyes are developing as they should be and that her vision is correct. If you're not sure when to start seeing the doctor, how to prepare your child for her first visit or what will really happen at the appointment, consider a few fast facts about pediatric eye exams.
1. Start at age 3. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting regular vision screenings at 3 years old. That said, if your child has noticeable problems or can't seem to see correctly, you should consult a professional before then.
2. Keep it regular. You won't skip an annual well-visit at the pediatrician's office, so why not have regular eye exams? She should get a vision check once every year during her regular pediatric appointment.
3. Other eye exam options. If your child doesn't have any special vision needs, the eye doctor isn't the only medical professional who can provide her annual screenings. The pediatrician can test your child's vision during her regular well-visit. Some preschools, daycares and child care centers also offer vision screenings for their students. When a school or center offers this type of screening, vision professionals, nurses or other pediatric health care-providers typically come to the site to evaluate the children.
4. Prep with a book. Your child won't know what to expect the first time she goes to the eye doctor. Help her to understand what will happen and answer any questions that she has beforehand. Books make great resources to help young children prep for eye exams. Try a few age-appropriate tales that feature eye doctors or glasses. For example, Arthur's Eyes by Marc Brown features the lovable aardvark who is having trouble seeing. Other books about eyes include The Eye of the Fry Cook: A Story About Getting Glasses (SpongeBob SquarePants) by Erica David, Luna and the Big Blur: A story for Children Who Wear Glasses by Shirley Day and Don Morris, and Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg.
5. Know the different options. A vision screening at school or the pediatrician is a first-line defense for catching developing problems. That said, a screening isn't the same as a full eye exam. An optometric eye exam is comprehensive, and looks for more than just blurry vision. The doctor will check to see if your child's eyes are developing properly, if there are any signs of disease or there are any other issues that may need treatment.
6. Reading isn't necessary. Just because your child can't read doesn't mean that she can't take a vision test. The American Optometric Association notes that, between the specialized equipment and child-friendly diagnostic tests that eye doctors have, children don't need to read in order to have an eye exam. Even though you might read letters on a chart during your own eye exam, your child won't always need to.
Caring for your child's eyes is a key part of her overall well-being. Understanding when to start seeing a vision professional, the differences between screenings and full optometric services and how to get your child ready for her first appointment can ease the process and help both of you to make the most of every eye exam. For more information, contact an eye doctor such as Scott T Anderson OD.