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Does your child need glasses?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

When a visit to the eye doc is in order

How do you know when to take your child to the eye doctor? Many school districts conduct annual eye screenings, but there are a few clues you can look for at home to get a head start on vision correction.

Seeing well is important for kids — it’s how they learn, interact and grow emotionally as well as socially. If your child has a vision problem, you don’t have to wait for the school nurse to tell you. There are certain clues you can look for at home, and eye doctors recommend taking your child for a yearly exam, even in the absence of symptoms.

What clues to look for

It can be difficult to ascertain when a child might need glasses. Board certified ophthalmologist Niki Silverstein, M.D., knows how good vision is especially important in children entering school. "It's hard to know when your children need glasses because they think what they are seeing is normal,” she explained. “If they've never seen any way else, how would they know?” Silverstein adds that a good test for a parent to do, although by no means a replacement for professional testing, is to see if a child can read or see distant signs in the past while driving in a car. She states, "Every child should have an eye exam when school starts — or earlier if a problem is noted."

American Optometric Association (AOA) spokesperson and optometrist, Dr. Andrea Thau, also provided us with a comprehensive list of signs that parents can look for that may prompt a visit to an eye doctor. “Parents play an important role in looking out for certain behaviors and warning signs that could indicate a problem that may have developed in between eye exams,” she shared. “Keeping a close eye on changes in their child’s behavior is the best way to detect warning signs that the child may suffer from an undiagnosed vision problem.”

When should a child get an eye exam?

Warning signs include:

  • Loses place while reading
  • Avoids close work
  • Tends to rub eyes
  • Has headaches
  • Turns or tilts head
  • Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • Omits or confuses small words when reading
  • Consistently performs below potential
  • Struggles to complete homework
  • Squints while reading or watching television
  • Has behavioral problems
  • Holds reading material closer than normal

Some school districts conduct annual vision screenings courtesy of the school nurse, but Thau recommends that kids get a comprehensive eye examination with an eye doctor well before they go to school. “Even in the absence of symptoms, the AOA recommends that all children have their first comprehensive eye examination with an eye doctor in the first year of life, again at age 3, and then every year thereafter,” she told us. “The AOA in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care created a national public health program InfantSEE® that provides no-cost vision assessments to every baby in this country in the first year of life.” You can find a provider at www.infantsee.org.

“Not seeing well can hinder a child's social and educational growth,” adds Silverstein. Vision impacts all areas of a child’s life, so if you have the slightest inkling that your child isn’t seeing well, make an appointment — and don’t expect her to come to you with complaints, as she may not know herself that she needs to get checked out.

More on school-aged kids

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How to manage your kids' food allergies at school
Get your kids excited for back to school

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