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How can you tell if your child needs glasses?

Fortunately, the majority of children do not have vision problems, but how do you know if your child falls into the smaller percentage of kids who do? When kids are toddler-age and younger it can be hard to get feedback on their eyesight. These steps will help parents ensure their kids are seeing as well as they possibly can.

Little girl being fitted for glasses

How can you tell if your child is having vision problems? Christie Morse,  a pediatric ophthalmologist based in Concord, New Hampshire, provides valuable tips for detecting potential vision problems in young children.

Early screening

During your child’s regular well-check visits, your pediatrician should check for any vision problems. “If the primary care provider suspects a vision problem, there is an immediate referral for an eye exam,” says Dr Morse. Of course, the earlier you detect a vision problem, the less likely it will affect your child’s development and education, so it’s always best to stay on a consistent well-check schedule.

Signs of problems

Even though visits with the pediatrician are valuable, as a parent, you know your child best and are therefore able to detect signs of vision problems at home. According to Dr Morse, signs to look for include:

  • Squinting
  • Crossing the eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • An abnormal red reflex in photos of the child

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist. “However, not all vision problems show signs,” cautions Dr Morse, “which is why vision screening within the medical home of the primary care provider is the best way to detect early vision problems.”

What to expect?

Taking a young child to an ophthalmologist may seem intimidating, especially since the child can’t always provide dependable feedback on the experience. But these trained specialists can decipher a surprising amount of information about your child’s vision with technology alone.

A typical exam includes “an assessment of the fixation response of the child, an assessment of the way the pupils are working and the alignment of the eyes,” says Dr Morse. After dilating the pupils, “a retinoscope is used to tell if the child is nearsighted, farsighted or has astigmatism.” From there, if your child’s vision is compromised, the doctor will know how to correct it.

If you need help choosing a pediatric ophthalmologist, visit the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at

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