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Are your children ready for school?

boy 20in 20front 20of 20eye 20chartMaybe not.  It is estimated that as much as 80% of what children learn is visual.  Eye exams are an important part of assuring your children’s vision is optimal for learning.  The American Optometric Association recommends eye exams for children at 6 months of age, 3 years old, 5 years old and then every one to two years thereafter.
Eye examinations in children can help uncover vision issues that may hamper a child’s ability to perform well at school as well as in sports.  An eye exam in all children, including infants, will determine if they are extremely near sighted (myopic), far sighted(hyperopic) or have astigmatism (if light is distorted due to different curves on the cornea or lens).  An eye exam will also determine if a child is using both eyes equally and together.  If your child is only using one eye or is highly farsighted they may appear to be seeing fine, however they will have to work much harder to perform visual tasks.  
Children are constantly using their visual system in both the classroom and at play.  If their vision is not functioning properly all facets of their learning and development may suffer.  When the visual system is not performing correctly children will have more difficulty processing what they are seeing.  Parents may observe their child avoiding reading or computer work, holding reading material very close or very far away, frequently rubbing their eyes, covering one eye, squinting, blinking excessively, complaining of headaches, falling asleep while reading more often or reversing words or letters.  A child is unaware this is not normal and may fail to mention their symptoms.  A screening performed in schools may not uncover these issues.
Eye examinations for children are similar to adult exams.  The optometrist or ophthalmologist’s office assistants take a detailed case history including any current or previous vision or eye problems, a medical history including medications taken and allergies, and any complications of pregnancy and birth.  A family history including both medical and ocular is also be reviewed.
A child’s vision will be assessed by either subjective or objective testing.  Parents need not be concerned if their child does not know or recognize letters yet.  Eye care professionals have numerous tests to help determine a child’s vision and eye functions without a child verbalizing letters on a chart.  A test called retinoscopy will help evaluate a child’s eye glass prescription.  During this test the optometrist or ophthalmologist use a light that shines inside the eye to determine the amount of myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism.  
The exam will assess a child’s ability to focus efficiently at both far and near objects, and back and forth. The eye doctor will determine if a child’s eye muscles are working as a team.  This type of testing is done with a stereopsis test that uses 3-D images.  Eye muscle coordination is evaluated to determine if they eyes are able to move in all directions smoothly and without restriction.  These tests also confirm if there is a presence of strabismus where one eye is misaligned.
An eye care provider will confirm if a child’s eyes are healthy.  Lights are used to view inside and around the eyes to determine if there are any abnormalities or diseases.  In most cases children enjoy the experience at the eye doctor’s office.  It is important to have their eyes examined on a regular basis by an eye care professional to confirm their eyes are performing optimally.  Their learning and development will improve significantly with healthy eyes and a solid visual system.
References: American Optometric Association,