Children's & Babies' Eyecare
When should you first take your child for an eye examination?
The earlier the better. We recommend that parents bring their babies for their first routine check at the tender age of six months - or before if they know that there is anyone in their family with defects such as squints or "lazy eyes".
Many parents believe that infants don't need eye examinations because they can "spot an aeroplane miles away" or can "pick up tiny crumbs from the floor". However, simply spotting things is not the whole story. Children may be able to see things but still have an eye defect and, unfortunately, not all parents are aware of this. Yet it is vital to detect these things early because, if some conditions, such as squint (strabismus), are not treated within the first few years, it is often too late and the child will have poor vision in that eye for the rest of his or her life.. A regular professional eye examination then, makes good sense, especially since some problems do not have any obvious signs which parents could spot themselves. More on strabismus can be found at Strabismus
Eyes are also a good indicator of general health so a full examination can often tell you a surprising amount about all sorts of other things going on in the body that might be prevented from developing if spotted early enough. This is another important reason to go for regular check-ups. After all, we all know that prevention is better than cure.
Optometrists with a special interest in children
All of our optometrists examine babies, infants and young children
- Simon Barnard is the co-author and editor of the book Paediatric Eye Care, Barnard & Edgar, Blackwell Science and formerly Director of Paediatric Optometry Clinic, City University, London
- Alex Levit's Fellowship qualification speciality of the College of Optometrists is Children's Vision,
- Menachem Salasnik was the recipient of the Adrian Evans Memorial Prize for exceptional skills in clinical paediatric optometry.
The paediatric check up - what you should expect
It is important that you and your child are relaxed and stress free when coming for your appointment so please try and arrive on time. If it is your baby’s first check your optometrist will want to have a chat to find out some all-important details about your child. People often ask "how can you check a baby's eyes when they can't read? The answer is - very easily. Skilled optometrists can find out all they need to during the examination without having to ask the patient questions. Of course, as your child gets older they can start to respond to questions and even more information can be obtained. There is a lot to find out about:
- Head posture and general co-ordination
- The outside of the eyes and lids, lashes and tear ducts
- The iris, pupil size and the pupil's response to light
- The cornea, lens, retina and optic nerve
- Eye movements
- Eye position
- Muscle balance between the eyes
- 3D vision (stereopsis)
- The “prescription” - long-sightedness, short-sightedness or astigmatism
- Standard of vision
As the child gets older, the tests become more complex and some new ones are added:
- Matching the picture/letter games for measuring levels of vision
- Assessment of the extent of the child's visual fields
- Measurement of eye pressures where necessary
- Special children's colour vision checks
It is important for the child and parents to build up a strong level of trust with the optometrist so continuity of care and regular checks are essential
The eyes are affected by and integrate with the rest of the body so when something goes wrong with your visual system in general, rather than just your sight, it can have repercussions on co-ordination, balance, development and learning. However, it is important to understand that vision should not be blamed for all learning difficulties or underachievement. Barnard Levit Optometrists aim to follow an evidence-based approach to investigation, diagnosis and treatment of suspected visual correlates of leaning difficulties. Usually, especially with dyslexics, visual problems are correlates of the underachievement rather than the cause but in some instances especially when the child has been diagnosed formally as being not dyslexic, a visual anomaly can be a major causative factor of the educational difficulties.
If your child is dyslexic or is underachieving at school we recommend a fuller more in depth investigation than a routine Eye Examination or Sight Test which we term a Visual Assessment to investigate visual involvement in learning underachievement, dyslexia and dyspraxia. More information can be seen at Dyslexia.
So what can be more important than your child's eyes and vision?
We receive something like 80% of all our information through the eyes and we only have one pair. Dental check-ups are a normal part of a child's health routine and eye checks should be also. Remember - eyes can't be filled or replaced with false ones.
If you have just had a baby and you feel you may need some emotional support why not go to Maternally Mindful.