The American Optometric Association recommends children have their first eye exam between the ages of six months to a year. If there are no vision problems, the AOA suggests regular exams every two to five years or as your doctor recommends. After age six, exams can occur every two years.
If there are problems or indications they may occur, your doctor may recommend annual or more frequent examinations. But the goal is to help your child experience a full life, by reinforcing the importance of lifelong eye health by beginning eye exams early.
Your Child’s First Eye Exam
The exam itself should be simple if there are no preexisting vision conditions and the eye doctor will tell you what is involved in the exam. Following a physical assessment, your child might be asked to identify common objects like an airplane or house as a measure of the eye’s ability to see details. This is also an indication of Amblyopia, often called lazy eye, which is a common vision problem for children. If it’s detected and treated early, it can be reversed.
Typically, the doctor will ask about the mother’s health during pregnancy, such as if there were infections and chronic conditions present.
If terms are used that you’re not familiar with, ask so you are able to make informed decisions. Also, ask for your eye doctor’s recommendation about how frequently your child’s eye exams should be scheduled.
Before concluding the appointment, clarify any outstanding issues including instructions from the doctor and next steps. As the guardian of your child’s health, it’s important to be clear about the steps that will support long-term eye health.
How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Eye Exam
Prepare for your child’s exam appointment by gathering the following information:
- Current drug prescriptions
- Medical conditions
- Birth details i.e. whether there were complications, it was a premature birth or whether your child’s growth and development is normal
- Vision conditions and associated prescriptions
- Medical records including the names of your child’s other doctors
- Known allergies
- Family medical history
- Recent vision changes
Well in advance of the appointment, talk to your child about the appointment so they know what to expect. This should help to ease any anxiety.
How to Reduce the Stress of an Eye Exam
Tell your child what to expect in plain language – the doctor will look into their eyes and ask them to identify shapes or pictures. You can make the exam preparation fun by practicing naming shapes or preparing for the “Tumbling E”.
The Tumbling E exam assesses how well your child sees details and forms by mimicking the letter E with his or her fingers to indicate which direction the letter is facing. The prongs of the “E” can be described as “horns” or “legs” to make it fun. Ask your child to say the animal or object it looks like while pointing their fingers – if the legs are pointing up, it might look like a rabbit with three ears; if it’s pointing down it could be a table with three legs.
To help your child remain calm during the exam, stay in the room with them and bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy along for them to hold if the exam becomes stressful.
If drops are required and your child is having trouble, remind them in a calm, reassuring voice that the doctor is helping them keep their eyes healthy and the drops aren’t painful.
Schedule an Appointment at a Location Near You
Navigate the appointment with minimal stress, while also ensuring that your child receives the best possible care.
If you have questions about eye care or want to schedule a consultation with an eye doctor near you, contact Southwestern Eye Center today.