In a perfect world, all children would be born with 20/20 vision and grow up with healthy eyes. The reality is nearly 48% of all children require some sort of vision correction, either with prescription glasses or contacts, by the time they are 17 years of age. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that babies have their first eye exam between 6 to 12 months of age, even if there are no apparent issues. They also recommend children between the ages of 3 to 5 have a comprehensive eye exam at least once, then, once they enter the first grade, they should start having annual eye exams.
Value of Early Eye Exams
The younger the child, the more they depend on vision to learn. In fact, a UCLA study revealed that 80% of classroom learning is visual. If a child can’t see the board or focus properly on the words in a book, their ability to learn can be significantly suppressed. That same UCLA study showed that 20% of students have a vision problem and 80-90% of those problems can be corrected with glasses. Most children don’t know how they are supposed to see and a slight blur may go undetected by teachers and pediatricians for many years. If your child needs full-time corrective glasses or contacts, the difference in confidence, concentration, learning ability, and sports performance can be extraordinary.
I’ve worked alongside a Pediatric Ophthalmologist for over 12 years and I’ve helped hundreds of kids (and their parents) take their first nervous steps into the world of vision correction. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what to expect during a child’s eye exam.
A Few Tests and A Lot of Patience
It’s happened countless times; I’ve heard the sound of crying and denial from outside the exam room after the eye doctor has concluded their examination and have determined there is a need for visual correction. The door opens and out comes a cheerful child with a lollipop followed by distraught parents with glossy eyes. Once the moment of shock has passed and a few years have gone by wearing glasses, parents will often admit that the best decision they ever made was to have their child’s eyes checked.
The AOA recommends that children have an eye exam every year once they enter the first grade as a child’s vision is more likely to change from one year to another as they grow. The first eye exam will always be the most unpredictable. Pediatric eye exams tend to take an average of 2 hours and no one, especially not a young child, is happy being in one place for that long having testing done. Thankfully, the experience gets better after the first visit.
If possible, print and fill out all patient forms before arriving for your appointment. Pediatric forms can be quite lengthy and it’s easier to complete them at your own pace rather than doing it in a waiting room where you may encounter crying kids and a TV.
Once in the exam room, you can expect your child to have a measurement taken on a machine called an Autorefractor. This will give an estimate of your child’s focusing error if any. Then, a medical assistant or technician will test your child’s vision, depth perception, and color vision. The amount and type of test will vary based on your child’s age and ability.
When the eye doctor enters the exam process, they will check eye alignment, prescription measurement, and eye health. If your child is over the age of 5, the doctor will likely use a Phoropter, a machine that can switch between multiple lenses in front of your eyes, to determine the refractive error and if there is a need for prescription glasses. Your eye doctor may want to take a better look inside the eyes, and if so, they will use dilation eye drops to keep the pupils open. Waiting for the drops to take effect can result in a 20-30 minute wait. Once the pupils are fully dilated, your child will be sensitive to light and their vision will be blurry for a few hours.
There are many variables and depending on what your child’s eye doctor finds, they may want to perform other tests.
Worth The Wait
Having the peace of mind in knowing your child’s vision and eye health is being monitored is priceless. If your child is prescribed glasses you will have many great choices, and thankfully, it’s easier than ever to find your child a pair of glasses they will love. DiscountGlasses.com has hundreds of kids frames to choose from in lots of fun colors and styles.
At DiscountGlasses.com, we care about children’s eyesight and encourage you to schedule your child’s eye exam and to have their vision and eye health checked regularly.
Oliver Torres is an American Board of Opticianry (ABO) certified optician with over 15 years of experience. He is also the founder of Eye Influence, an online, non-profit platform that teaches people about eyewear and eye care.