An eye exam for baby’s will usually be hold at the age of 6 months old, and then again when they are somewhere between 3 to 4 years old, usually just before they go to school. But how if your toddler is between 6 months and 3 years old and you have a suspicion that he needs to wear glasses?
Here are some tips. Many of them are based on our own experience. Our daughter starts to wear glasses to cope with her astigmatism at exactly 2 years old, and the most common question we got after that from other people/parents was: “How do you know that she needs to wear glasses?”. That’s why I write this post. I hope this will somehow be of a little help.
Note: We are not medical practitioners or professionals. So please consult your doctor/optometrist if you need official information.
- Trust what you think and feel.
We are so glad we insisted our GP to refer our daughter to the hospital for an eye exam. He first thought that her eye-blinking was merely a tic, so a bit reluctant to refer her for the formal check. But the result of the eye exam was more than clear and the optometrist praised us to be able to detect her need in a very early phase. Our daughter has embraced her glasses since the first second they sit on her little nose. It’s more than obvious she can see much better with her glasses than without.
- A vision test is harmless en painless, but for young children it can be a quite frightening event. Therefore we have recorded our own experience with our daughter’s eye exam (she luckily was very cooperative with that!). Here’s the video. You can show it to your child to give him an idea of what’s going to happen, and to make sure that it’s not painful or anything close to that. The “worst” part will be probably when the eyes have to be dilated. This is necessary to make the pupils big so the doctor can do a thorough examination in the back of the eye (up to 24 hours sensitivity to bright lights and blurred vision can occur after that). Talk a lot to your child to prepare him. Tell him what’s going to happen. It could be easier if you or your partner also wear glasses (and have gone through the same test), but otherwise you can point other people in your child’s circle who wear them. Books and other learning materials about wearing glasses will help too.
- Be suspicious to any physical irregularities: red or itchy eyes, excessive tears, one eye different to the other (drift-off or wandering inward/outward). It doesn’t necessarily be a sign of an eye problem, but it is a sign, and when it’s also combined with other signs in this list, then I would say just make an appointment with your eye doctor.
- Be aware of every change in your child’s behaviour in common, or his behaviour regarding to his eyes. Such like: doesn’t like to spot something faraway, gets very close to the tv, avoid situations where good sight is needed, has less concentration, blinks or pinchs or squints or rubs his eyes a lot, gets tired quickly especially after intensive use of eyes (reading, watching tv, making small puzzles), gets frustrated very easily for not able to do all above mentioned.
- Play vision games and let your toddler spot the same thing you see at a certain distance. Point at a spot but don’t be too spesific: “Look, there’s a bird sitting outside!” or “I see your ball over there”. Examine your toddler’s reactions. How’s his enthousiasm? Does it take long before he sees what you see? Does he need to squint his eyes or move his head differently to be able to see?
- When you really have a strong suspicion about your toddler’s need to wear glassses, you can try at home a similar (simplified) test as used by the optometrist/eye doctor. This only applies when your toddler can already mention some objects. Make a print of a vision card like the picture below (there’s a colorful and black-and-white version). You might want to change some objects to make sure your child knows all of them. Show the card first to him and let him name them. Then cover one eye (you can place a piece of paper in front of his sunglasses, tell him he is going to be a cool pirate!) and stand at 5 meters distance. Test yourself or your partner first for the size of the picture. If you think it should be big enough to see from that distance, then go for it. Point at some pictures you are sure your child can mention when he sees clear enough. Go from bigger to smaller size or take longer distance. The same applies as in nr.5: look carefully on how your toddler reacts. Record the reaction in a video if necessary. Does he hesitate? Or try to move closer by? Does he enjoy the whole “game” or is it the opposite?
Once again, we are not medical profs. We just feel like helping others with our experience. Please let your optometrist check your child’s eyes as soon as you think it might be necessary. Most importantly: help and stand by your child through the whole process. Understand how strange, and maybe scary, this whole test might be for him. Try to treat the vision test as something fun and cool. And sketch the new situation for him (if he really needs glasses): How wonderful would it be if he finally can see what the squirrels do up in the tree! 😉
Have you got any experiences or tips regarding the vision test for young children? Your comments will be much appreciated!