Vision Care can and should start at a very young age. Most parents are surprised to learn that doctors can assess a child’s vision before he learns his letters, or even before he can respond verbally. The doctor assesses the young child with a series of objective tests that can determine prescription, eye positioning and eye health without much response from the child. The American Optometric Society recommends eye examinations for children as young as 6 months of age. There are some conditions that are critical to rule out that are not only vision-threatening, but life-threatening (such as retinoblastoma, a malignant tumor that can be found in very young children). The doctor also wants to rule out amblyopia at an early age because it is much easier to treat when a child is young. Amblyopia can be caused by a very high prescription in one eye only, or an eye turn (the eye turning in or out). When the doctor sees signs of this condition, she will prescribe lenses to help remediate the condition, and help prevent other problems from developing.
Here are some practical ways to help your child before an eye exam:
üExpect your child to like the doctor and have fun.
üRefrain from talking about eye drops or anything that could scare your child.
üPlay “recognize the letter or number” games.
üIf your child does not know any letters or numbers, play the tumbling E game where they determine which direction the legs of the E face when you move a large E in different positions. Have the child make the legs of the E with their fingers so they do not need to say the direction.
üMake the appointment for a time of day that is good for your child. They should be well rested and fed, and not over stimulated.
üLet your child try on glasses at the dispensary to encourage a positive response in case the doctor recommends glasses. Glasses should be discussed as something that is positive and helpful. If you have a negative reaction to glasses, so will your child.
üIf the doctor decides to dilate your child, do not raise concerns or fears. This will scare your child, and the doctor will not dilate your child without good cause. The doctor will instill the drops quickly and without fuss, and will comfort your child if needed. Most of the pain of eye drops results from fear.
üIf your child has been dilated, please have them wear sunglasses and stay out of the sun for the appropriate amount of time. If they return to school, the teacher should be notified because near work will be difficult for a period of time.
üBefore the exam, encourage your child to be cooperative during the exam, but try not to answer for your child when the doctor is asking your child questions.
üThe doctor likes to interview the parent during the examination and also go over results and recommendations. You should try to be with your child during the eye examination. If you have other young, distracting children, you should make arrangements with another care giver so that you can give your full attention to the doctor, and so that you do not distract the child having the examination. If you can not be there for the evaluation, you should leave a phone number where you can be reached for the doctor to call you at a later time.
üPlease give our front desk staff accurate insurance information about your child’s vision plan and health plan before your appointment so your eligibility and benefits can be verified. If you fail to do this, you will be expected to pay privately for your visit and any eyewear expenses incurred.
üPlease bring any previous eye glasses or contacts to our office at the time of the visit. If you were referred to our office, please bring the name and number of the referring doctor or professional.