Vision problems are the fourth most common disability in the United States, according to the American Optometric Association. As long as a child isn't squinting or complaining that they can't see, most parents assume that all is fine with their child's vision. That's not always the case, however. Eye development is a crucial part of your child's overall growth, and regular pediatric eye exams can detect vision or eye health problems early so they can be treated effectively. The age of your child determines what type of exam is necessary.
Newborn and Baby Eye Exams
Most newborns get their eyes checked by a pediatrician before they ever leave the hospital. Premature infants receive additional screenings to detect eye abnormalities or potential problems with eye growth. Newborns with obvious eye defects also receive more intensive examination. Healthy babies will have their eyes checked at all of their well-child visits during the first year of life. Most doctors recommend a more thorough exam around 6 months of age. These examinations are usually done by a nurse or pediatrician.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Between the ages of 3 and 4, children are savvy enough to follow the directions of a nurse or pediatrician so visual acuity can be checked, usually by using fixation preference tests. Often, such tests also require a child to point out pictures on cards by listening to cues from a nurse or pediatrician and pointing to the appropriate image.
Around the time a child starts kindergarten, an eye alignment check and assessment of overall eye health is necessary. Many schools offer these tests free of charge to parents. Most of the time these tests only test visual acuity, but more extensive testing is often necessary to detect a true vision problem that can interfere with learning. Around the age of 5, a child is old enough to visit a pediatric optometrist for a more in-depth exam. Such an examination will also test things like refraction, binocular vision and eye movements to determine if a child needs glasses or other eye treatments.
Thousands of children experience eye injuries when playing sports, most notably baseball, according to the American Optometric Association. If your child plays sports, regular visits to a pediatric eye doctor can help prevent eye injuries. Optometrists, like those at Naples Optical Center Inc, will educate you and your child about eye safety while playing sports and can also recommend glasses and other eye equipment that will protect your child's eyes.