We are partnering with the American Optometric Association to educate parents on the importance of scheduling your child’s yearly comprehensive eye exam. Because when kids can see clearly, everything falls into place.
When little River Rose was born, her parents, like most new parents, knew she was absolutely perfect. But after two months of getting to know their baby girl, River’s parents noticed that her eyes turned outward a bit more than other babies. A few months later, mom and dad noticed a shake in River’s eye that alarmed them enough to visit a local doctor of optometry.
Her caring optometrist noticed that River had a rotary nystagmus, or a rapid rhythmic eye movement. After some necessary tests to rule out a tumor or other complications, River was cleared and sent home with some brand new glasses to help strengthen her eyes and provide her with better vision.
Now River is just like any other five-year-old girl. She loves playing with dolls, tossing a ball back and forth, and chasing her baby brother around. River has become great friends with her optometrist, whom she sees regularly and her infectious grin will win your heart in a second. River’s story is a testament that all children need a yearly comprehensive eye exam, from babies up to high school graduates.
Why do kids need a yearly eye exam?
Healthy eyes set kids up for success in sports, at school, and in every learning experience they encounter. Many children go about their daily lives experiencing undiagnosed vision problems. They can’t tell you something is wrong because they don’t know any different.Each year we make sure to schedule our children’s wellness exams and teeth cleanings, but we sometimes forget one of the most important check-ups they can get—comprehensive eye examinations.
The American Optometric Association recently released a new, evidenced-based guideline supporting that all school-aged children should see their optometrist every year for a comprehensive exam, with the first occurring before first grade. When you schedule your child’s wellness checkup, schedule their eye exam too! Kids need yearly eye exams from six months through age 18. Yep, even babies.
School Vision Screenings Are Not Enough
Some parents may believe that the screenings your kiddos get at the beginning of school or during a regular doctor’s check up are enough. Actually, those vision screenings often miss threatening vision issues. To make sure your children are getting the eye care they need, plan a visit to your local doctor of optometry.
How do I know if my child has a vision problem?
From ages 6 to 18, a child’s vision may change frequently or unexpectedly. According to the AOA’s 2015 Eye-Q Survey®, 74% of parents of school-aged children with glasses or contacts reported the problem was found during a routine eye exam.
Your child might not be able to tell you there’s a problem, so common indicators include:
- Covering one eye
- Holding reading materials close to the face
- Complaining of headaches or other discomfort
- Short attention span
- Head tilts while reading or concentrating
What can I expect at my child’s eye exam?
A children’s eye examination is nothing to be afraid of, but sometimes kids are a little timid at the thought of something new. Here are some helpful tips to best prepare for your child’s eye examination:
- Chat beforehand. Have a talk about the importance of healthy eyes. Let your son or daughter know that the optometrist will look at their eyes with a few special tools, but that there is nothing to be afraid of.
- There are games! O.D.s (doctors of optometry) are used to working with children and they make exams fun for kids by using eye games and interesting picture charts.
- Eye drops. An eye exam may include eye drops to dilate the pupils. Assure your child that any discomfort will be over very quickly.
- How long will it take? A child’s first examination may take 60-90 minutes. A technician will dilate your child’s eyes and then the child plays for 30 minutes while the drops take effect. You may want to pack a few toys or snacks for the visit.
- Stay positive! The more positive you are, the more positive the experience will be. Keeping a good attitude will help your child have a happy exam.
Vision, Sports, and Perfect Timing
Not only do yearly eye exams help kids get ready for school, but they help your child prepare for all kinds of sports and extracurricular activities.
Healthy vision is vital for your child’s depth perception (i.e. judging where and when a baseball is being pitched to them), wide field of vision (seeing all the players on a football field or volleyball court), and hand-eye coordination (nearly every sport played with a ball!).
If your little player is consistently hitting the rim in basketball or swinging too late in baseball, that may indicate a vision problem that could be diagnosed and helped by a friendly visit to your local optometrist. He or she can also help diagnose childhood concussions.
Summer and early fall is perfect timing to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child. Make it part of your back-to-school checklist before all the reading, writing, and important activities start!
Through Their Eyes
As a mom of four, I get to see life through their eyes. I watch the way my toddler’s eyes light up when he sees an elephant at the zoo for the first time. I get to witness my son hitting his first baseball and my daughter watching her first professional ballet, the dancers standing delicately en pointe. The magic that radiates through their eyes reminds me of how important healthy eyes are to children.
Healthy eyes are their windows to the world.
Schedule Your Child’s Yearly Eye Exam
According to the AOA’s new pediatric guidelines found here, a child’s brain learns how to use the eyes to see, just like it learns how to use legs to walk. The longer a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more a child’s brain learns to adapt to the vision problem. Uncorrected vision problems can create obstacles for kids in sports, school, and life that make it harder for them to succeed.
There’s one easy solution: a yearly eye exam. Schedule your child’s exam now while it’s fresh on your mind. Find a doctor and access more information from the AOA’s website at AOA.org.
Photography by Maggie Grace Photography
A special thanks to The Eye Associates and AOA member Dorian Rammell, O.D., for answering our questions and letting us photograph them. If you live in the Boise, Idaho area, they are fantastic!
*This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of American Optometric Association . The opinions and text are all mine.