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I often have mums ask me “what is the right age to get my child’s eyes tested.”

The answer is any age! Really! And no, it doesn’t matter if your child is too young to know their letters or numbers – we have charts with pictures for that. A visit to the optometrist at least once before your child starts school is definitely worth it.

Here are five of the most important reasons to go in for an eye test:

1) You think everything is okay

Vision problems are something that kids often won’t complain about. While they can tell you that they have a sore throat or feel sick in their tummy, they usually don’t have any idea about what poor eyesight is all about.

They just think that how they see is how everyone sees, and therefore couldn’t possibly tell you that something isn’t right with their vision.

And just to add to the concern, many eye problems need to be treated before your child reaches 8 years of age to have any hope of normal vision development!

2) You notice a turned eye

Having one or both eyes that turns inward or outwards is something that is best managed as soon as possible.

We really do need to get the eyes to align properly, because if they don’t your child may never develop true “binocular vision” where the eyes work properly together. A lack of binocular vision can make it difficult to study, pay attention in the classroom and play sports.

Eyes that turn can be managed with glasses, eye exercises, surgery or a combination of these. Surgery is not often required.

While sometimes kids have an eye that obviously turns, this is not always the case. It can be quite subtle, or can only happen when they are tired. It’s always worth getting it checked out!

3) Hand-eye coordination problems, clumsiness, or an unusual reaction in a 3D movie

When you go to the shoe shop, you might find that you have one foot that is bigger than the other. While I’m not a podiatrist here to comment on foot issues, I can definitely say that where one eye focuses differently to the other, it can cause a whole range of problems.

Problems that we can usually handle with the right glasses.

I once had a six year old girl whose mother brought her in for a routine eye test. When I found a big difference in how the eyes were focusing, I asked whether there were any difficulties her daughter was having with playing sports. The mum almost burst into tears as she was so relieved to know that there was a reason why her little girl kept missing the ball when playing tennis, and that we could do something about it!

I have also consulted with kids who have bruises on their shins from bumping into things, or have been labelled as “clumsy.”  It’s been great since 3D movies have become more popular. Some kids will be brought in for an eye test because they have complained of headaches or haven’t experienced the effects everyone else does when they have gone to see a 3D movie. More possible signs of a focusing problem!

4) Family history of eye problems

A lot of parents are aware that colour vision problems are generally inherited.

What mums don’t know is that usually they are the ones who themselves will have normal colour vision, but carry the gene and can pass it onto their sons.

About 5% of boys will have a colour vision problem, and depending on the severity, it can impact on their career decisions. Aspirations of careers such as becoming as an electrician, a pilot, or joining the police force or the defence forces can be placed into jeopardy because of colour vision problems.

Focusing problems such as shortsightedness, longsightedness and astigmatism can also run in the family.

 5) Difficulties with reading

It is quite normal for children to miss the occasional word here and there when they are learning to read as sometimes they will skip over longer words that they are unfamiliar with. However, if they are often skipping words or lines of text, or frequently losing their place, that could indicate an eye problem.

Have you taken your child for an eye test?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • Thank you for this, very important.

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  • My kids had regular eye tests as soon as they started school. The needed corrective glasses for a little and that fixed it

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  • My little girl had her eye tested before she start school and I was so relived that everything was fine.

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  • Haven’t thought about getting eyes checked yet.. How old do we have to start testing?

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  • Good article thank you. Something I haven’t given much thought to prior to reading this.

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  • great article. thanks for sharing.

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  • Thanks for sharing! Never thought of it like that

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  • Very good tips. I think it is important to also add that kids eye sight change and before they are 6ish it isn’t set in stone so most optometrists etc. won’t recommend glasses prior to that time. Also for clumsiness/co-ordination I would be sending them to a developmental paed who might recommend Occupational therapy.


    • Hi MOM64736,

      It is a good point that you raise – the fact that during the normal eye development in childhood, the vision usually change. However, I wouldn’t say that most optometrists won’t recommend glasses prior to the age of six, as there are some cases where they are required. It’s more that we consider the situation very carefully before prescribing glasses in young children.

      And yes, there will always be cases where other health practitioners including a GP, developmental paediatrician, occupational therapist or physiotherapist may need to be involved where a child is “uncoordinated.” It is worth noting that no amount of physio/OT interventions will be effective if there is an underlying vision problem that has been undiagnosed and is not being taken into account as part of the overall management plan. I think it is up to the optometrist to let the other practitioners know the outcome of the eye test and refer the child on where appropriate.

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  • It is a shame that they were given the impression that the “lazy” eye was “cured”, as it is quite rare that this is the case. Even if there comes a point where it appears that glasses are no longer required, this may not be the case for years on end. I would definitely recommend at least yearly visits where there has been a history of a “lazy” eye as exercises or glasses or both may be needed at some stage.

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  • Please have your children’s eyes tested, and please have them retested even when they tell you they are fine, every couple of years is no great inconvenience and it is bulk billed, my niece had ‘lazy eye’ wore glasses and eye patches for several years as a toddler and primary child, then in later primary school she was cured, however she has just finished her 1st year at uni and at the end of her HSC it was discovered that the was completely blind in one eye, as it was not treated correctly and as she is a brilliant student there were no schooling issues and she has never known any difference so no one ever picked up that she was blind in one eye (her mum is a nurse so certainly no neglect) if this had been picked up in primary school it could have been treated, now she has to have ongoing treatment and care because the good eye can go blind in sympathy with the other one. so please have them checked, just incase, and recheck in case they change.

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  • So true and really important to get their sight checked every year or two.

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  • Yes I have done a eye test for my child but i am concerned about her watching tvs and using ipad


    • These days with the amount of time we all spend in front of different screens (e.g. computer, tablet) I find that eye problems that are relatively minor and wouldn’t usually cause symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision can become an issue. While your optometrist can give specific advice depending on the way your child uses these screens, as a general rule it’s important not to sit too close, and there is also a need to take regular breaks to give the eyes a rest.

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  • I have taken both my girls for an eye test. All good

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  • my granddaughter wears glasses as she has a lazy eye and she looks so cute


    • In the last few years I actually see kids come in who WANT glasses. Gone are the days of name calling such as “4 eyes” since glasses have become a bit of a fashion accessory… as well as serving their purpose of course!



      • This is so my daughter! She wears just the frames of a pair of glasses because she thinks it looks cool!

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  • You need to make sure it is a behavioural test as a normal eye testis not enough I found out thinking iwas doing the right thing getting them tested every year although it was not till I was advised to get them behavioural tested did we fix their reading problems


    • A behavioural optometrist will have done an extra year of study specializing in children’s vision. Any optometrist is able to perform testing to see whether a child needs to be referred to a behavioural optometrist.

    Reply

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