With Children’s Eye Health/Safety Month coming up in August, we wanted to take a moment to discuss eye care needs for kids.
It’s true that 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems, which can lead to a host of other developmental and behavioral issues if not identified and corrected. These can include:
- Impaired motor and language skills
- Inability to pay attention or focus on a task
- Learning challenges – 80% of learning is visually based!
Prevention of Children’s Eye Problems
Early detection of vision problems in children is key to correcting those problems and preventing vision-based developmental setbacks. Pediatric eye care is an essential element of a child’s overall care, helping to ensure they reach their full potential.
According to the American Optometric Association, the ideal age for a child’s first eye exam is six months. Once children reach three years of age, they should have an eye exam every two years—annually if they wear eyeglasses.
Although public schools conduct free vision screenings, those screenings are simply to determine if a child has 20/20 vision. Even children with 20/20 vision can still have serious vision problems. School screenings cannot detect a majority of the vision problems that impair learning, and they will not be able to prescribe glasses for children who need them. For this reason, all children should have their eyes examined by a pediatric ophthalmologist or pediatric optometrist.
Preventing Eye Problems in Toddlers
As with overall child development, there are also milestones in a child’s visual development. For example:
- By the time a baby is three months old, their eyes should work together when focusing on an object.
- By five months, a baby should have depth perception.
- By one year, a child should be able to reach for and grasp an object with their thumb and forefinger.
Watching for these and other developmental milestones can help parents spot when their child may have a budding vision problem. It is crucial to remember that many children with vision problems may not show any signs.
Playing with babies and toddlers is an excellent way for parents to help keep vision development on track. Moving a colorful toy from side-to-side and up and down in front of a baby’s face can encourage babies to follow the object with their eyes.
Rolling a ball back and forth with a toddler can help them develop the ability to track moving objects. Helping toddlers to put puzzles together can improve their spatial awareness.
Preventing Eye Problems in Children
Though not yet in school, preschool-aged children are learning so much every day about the world around them. Parents can keep preschoolers’ visual development on track by reading to them and playing games with building blocks and puzzles.
Parents can also help children to develop number, letter, and shape recognition by playing games with these objects. Of course, playing catch with a ball or Frisbee is one of the best ways to help children develop greater hand-eye coordination.
Subtle Signs of Vision Problems in Children
When infants and toddlers don’t reach a visual milestone, like tracking moving objects by two months of age or crawling by 10 months, parents should contact their pediatrician and schedule an eye exam with a pediatric ophthalmologist or pediatric optometrist.
Children of any age who squint or tilt their head to one side when focusing on something, or who regularly hold items close to their face, may have a vision problem and should receive an eye exam.
Vision problems can also cause children to rub their eyes frequently and have headaches.
Parents should also be aware that when school-aged children exhibit attention problems, resist doing homework, or avoid reading, an undiagnosed vision problem could be to blame. Checking in with an experienced children’s eye doctor should be your first step before exploring other solutions for learning difficulties.
Campus Eye Center is an Award-Winning Eye Care Resource for Parents
We offer the highest quality eye care for kids in Lancaster County, as demonstrated by our first place win for pediatric optometry in LNP’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards! If you’re wondering whether your child may need glasses or could have other vision problems, make an appointment to visit us today!