Generally young eyes are health eyes, and most children have good vision and do not need to wear glasses. However, studies show that one in four children have vision problems that can affect learning and behaviour. 80% of what a child learns come through their eyes so uncorrected vision problems can impact their ability to learn and interact with the world around them. Some children may have vision screening done at school which can detect common eye problems like difficulty seeing in the distance. A comprehensive eye exam can detect other less obvious conditions.
Children’s vision changes as they grow and develop. It takes some time for babies’ vision to develop but by 6 weeks they should be able to follow something colourful or interesting with their eyes. Babies sometime have eyes that are turned in or out as they are not working as a team. If this doesn’t go away by four months old consult an eye specialist for advice on therapy or muscle surgery.
Fine tuning of the vision takes place at ages 3-6yrs. Older pre-schoolers learn how to use sporting equipment and work on the fine motor skills required to write their name. Having a complete eye exam before the child enters school allows enough time to correct any visual problems while the visual system is still flexible.
School Aged Children:
Children should receive an eye exam before entering grade one and regularly after that even if they have no visual problems. If your child needs glasses check-ups should be every 12 months. A vision screening is not a complete exam like the one performed by an optometrist. Vision screenings are designed to alert parents of a possible vision problems and do not take the place of a visit to the optometrist.
What to look out for:
- One eye turns in or out- maybe noticed when child is tired
- Squinting, closing or covering one eye
- Rubbing eyes repeatedly, except when they are tired as this is normal
- Avoids writing or drawing
- Constantly holds materials close to the face
- Tilting the head to one side
- Complaints about blurred or double vision or have unexplained headaches
- Developmental delays
If you suspect your child has difficulty recognising colours or there is a family history of colour vision problems, your optometrist can do a colour vision assessment. There is no treatment for colour deficiency but it can help with choice of occupation.
Protect your child’s eyes from the sun:
Children usually spend a lot of time outdoors so it is important to protect your child’s eyes in the sun. You can protect your child eyes by making sure they wear a wide brimmed hat or sunglasses with 100% UV protection in bright sunlight.