First Eye Exams
At birth, infants have poor acuity; they only see blurred patterns of light and dark. Their vision develops as they grow. It becomes clearer, colour vision develops, and the eyes become more co-ordinated. By 6 months of age, eye movement control is developed and their eyes are aligned. This is when they develop hand-eye coordination skills.
The first eye examination should happen at 6 months of age. This exam differs from an adult eye exam. The optometrist will check to make sure the eyes are developing properly. This includes testing eye alignment and co-ordination, a refraction (glasses prescription check) to ensure there is no large prescription or difference in prescription between the 2 eyes, and an assessment of the ocular health. Rare but serious conditions exist that can be detected at this first exam. If left unaddressed, these conditions can result in significant vision problems.
Strabismus (eye turn) can present in infancy, but usually between 6 and 18 months of age. There are various treatments depending of the cause/type which include: glasses, contact lenses, vision therapy, or surgery. If left untreated, the turned eye will not develop properly which results in poorer vision in that eye (amblyopia).
Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
The visual system continues to develop into the school years. Focus, tracking, convergence and depth perception improve throughout childhood. Children and parents of children frequently are unaware of a visual problem since children have a difficult time describing their vision. They don’t know if it differs from normal since they have nothing to compare to if they have never developed normal vision. The next eye examination is recommended at age 3. By age 3 a comprehensive exam similar to adults can be performed. They do not need to know letters to measure visual acuity; optometrists have many child-friendly tests that include pictures/games.
Vision and Learning
80% of learning is related to vision. Children have considerable visual demands. They require clear distance and near vision, good focussing ability (to maintain focus and change focus from far to near), well coordinated eyes that have a full range of motion, adequate peripheral vision, and good hand-eye co-ordination. If any of these skills are reduced or impaired, it will make it more difficult to learn and be successful in school.
As children grow, their eyes do as well which can result in more rapid visual changes than adults. Annual check-ups with an optometrist are recommended for children up to age 19. OHIP covers all children’s eye exams (up to and including age 19).
Check out this article from Today's Parent about the importance of early detection and treatment of vision problems in children:
Eye See…Eye Learn Program
If your child is attending a Junior Kindergarten program in an Eye See…Eye Learn region, they can receive one free pair of glasses if prescribed by a Doctor of Optometry.