From the cradle to the classroom, doctors of optometry recommend that children have their first eye exam at six months of age, again before starting kindergarten, and then annually after that. While it's impossible to know if a child's vision is developing normally until a proper exam is conducted, there are signs of potential problems during each developmental phase that parents can watch for, as follows:
Babies can usually see only the person holding them or a toy up close, and at three months they can recognize familiar faces. By six months, babies should be able to focus and see colour. During the six month eye exam, the optometrist will ensure your babies eyes are developing normally, checking for signs of near or farsightedness, lazy eye, crossed eyes or cancer. Small deviations of the eyes are normal at this stage.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
At this age, the ability to focus, tracking, depth perception, and binocular or 3D vision develops. The ability of both eyes to focus on an object simultaneously is developing up until around age seven, which is why it's important that any vision issues be treated before then.
Parents should watch for:
• red, itchy or watering eyes
• light sensitivity
• an eye that consistently turns in or out
• squinting, excessive blinking, or eye rubbing
• holding objects too close
Conditions that may emerge include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism (blurred vision at any distance). Because hand-eye coordination is developing, parents need to watch for:
• difficulty playing sports
• lack of concentration
• eye rubbing
• closing one eye, omitting words or using a finger to maintain the place when reading
• avoidance of near or distant work
Children's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play, but since many vision issues are symptomless – and children assume everyone sees the way they do – booking an eye exam is the best way for parents to be sure that their children's eyes are healthy.
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