Parents do everything they can to ensure their children are prepared to be successful in school. Routine wellness exams with their pediatricians as well as annual eye exams should be part of that process. Making an eye exam part of their back-to-school essentials can help detect learning related vision problems early on.
An estimated 5-10% of preschoolers and 25% of school age children have vision problems. Often, these vision problems can go undetected without a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Children with uncorrected vision can experience obstacles both academically, socially and athletically. Undetected vision problems can cause eyestrain, tired eyes and headaches and/or also affect children's visual perceptual skills such as letter recognition, reading comprehension and retention. Additionally, conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (eye turn) can cause poor vision development in one or both eyes, thus affecting depth perception. Early identification of a child's vision problem can be crucial because children are often more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye examination at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6. For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required and annually for children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:
- Near vision
- Distance vision
- Binocular (two eyes) coordination
- Eye movement skills
- Focusing skills
- Peripheral awareness
- Hand-eye coordination