The age at which your child needs their first eye exam may surprise you. Many parents think their child is first tested in kindergarten. Optometrists actually suggest that it happen much earlier.

It’s essential to evaluate a child’s vision, even when they aren’t reading yet. Eye development happens rapidly, so it’s important to identify any issues as soon as possible. Wondering when you should start scheduling your little one for regular eye exams?

Read on to find out more.

When Should a Child Have Their First Exam?

The first comprehensive eye exam for children should take place at six months. A child’s vision develops constantly during infancy. Babies can only focus on close objects and only see in high-contrast, but around the 6-month mark is when their vision starts to sharpen.

At that point, babies should have their vision examined to make sure that everything is developing normally. A doctor will check to make sure that the eyes are working together and performing as a team. These early developmental stages are crucial for establishing future performance, so any early issues should be addressed as soon as possible

The second exam is performed around three to four years of age, which is when the eyes have finished their growth and development. After that, a pre-kindergarten exam should follow to prepare them for school. This is the point where you a yearly exam should get scheduled with other pediatric check-ups.

How Do You Test Children Before Reading Age?

You may be confused about how it’s possible to test children before they can read. A typical eye exam consists of the patient correctly identifying letters from a chart, but this isn’t always an option for those in early development. For children, special charts with shapes and pictures are available when they are too young to identify letters.

For children who are even younger still, or are non-verbal, objective tests exist that can assist in identifying visual acuity. These tests do not require an identifying response from the young patient, are still used to check eye-teaming, vision balance, and other markers. In as young as six months, doctors can test for these eye issues with specially-designed exams.

Signs that Children Need Glasses

There are cases where you might want to have your child’s vision checked before a regular exam. While it can be hard to identify vision issues in young children, there are common signs and symptoms you can watch for.

Children who are having difficulty with their vision will often not understand the issue or know how to communicate it to their parents. You may notice them squinting, holding items close to their face, or moving themselves closer to things they are looking at to try and see them better.

A turn in either eye can be a sign of challenged vision. Frequent headaches, regular rubbing of the eyes, or covering one eye are all symptoms of eye challenges that should be evaluated by a professional.

What Do Screenings Check For?

Comprehensive exams of the eyes for children assess their visual function and their eye health. These tests determine if a child can see clearly out of each eye and that the eyes work in tandem with each other.

Testing can also check for color spectrum deficiencies, depth perception issues, lazy eye, and turned eyes. An eye doctor will also check for any diseases of the eye such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal disease. These exams are similar to the ones administered to adults but modified to suit children.

Regular Eye Exams are Important for Education

Early regular eye exams are important for identifying and correcting any potential roadblocks to learning. The basic skills required are distance and near vision, eye teaming (binocularity,) peripheral awareness, hand-eye coordination, and focusing abilities.

If these skills are compromised or not available to a child, they face a handicap in early development. Undiagnosed eye issues will cause a child to face impeded learning and potentially fall behind in their development. The building blocks they establish at a young age set the foundation for the rest of their education, so it is vital that they have the tools for success at hand.

Misconceptions About Regular Eye Exams

Though simple vision screenings are commonly conducted at school, they are not equivalent to comprehensive exams performed by an optometrist. School screenings are useful for identifying potential issues, but they are not a substitute. Many parents might make the mistake of thinking these short screenings are enough to detect all vision problems and that they negate the need for regular screenings.

Professional, comprehensive exams are much more in-depth. They are sensitive enough to detect all vision problems. They also screen for eye health issues, which simple vision screenings cannot do.

Get Your Child’s Eyes Examined Early and Often

With early and regular eye exams, you can ensure that your child has a future of visual success. A child’s eyes change rapidly from birth. At such young ages, they have difficulty communicating the shortcomings of their eyesight to adults.

This is why it is so vital to ensure they have healthy eyes. Early detection of any visual issues can be addressed and corrected to ensure your child is taking in the world as best as possible.

If you need to schedule an eye appointment for your child, contact an eye care professional like Abba Eye Care. We can test children of all ages for ocular health and visual acuity. Let us help you ensure the future looks bright for the whole family.