Back-to-school checklists should include eye check-ups to make sure children can do their best this school year. August, Children's Eye Health and Safety Month, is a good time for your child to see an eye doctor to have his or her vision checked and to get eye protection gear if they play sports. Good vision is vital for a child’s success in school and overall health and wellbeing.
How often should a child have his or her eyes checked? The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend the following exams:
Between the ages of 3 and 3 ½ a child’s vision and eye alignment should be assessed.
If misaligned eyes (strabismus), "lazy eye” (amblyopia), refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism) or another focusing problem is suspected in the initial screening, the child should have a comprehensive exam by an ophthalmologist. It’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible to ensure successful vision correction and life-long benefits.
A child’s vision should be checked when he or she enters school or whenever a problem is suspected. As children develop their vision can change quickly.
Nearsightedness (difficulty seeing distance) is the most common vision issue in this age group and can be corrected with eyeglasses. If an alignment problem or other eye health issue is suspected, the child should have a comprehensive exam by an ophthalmologist.
If a learning disability is suspected and a child has a problem with reading, the first step should be a complete eye examination to determine if the child needs eyeglasses.
For children with dyslexia, research has shown that visual training is not effective. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and American Academy of Pediatrics state that dyslexia is a central nervous system disorder. Specialized tutoring and certain teaching methods are recommended.
Finally, if your child will be playing baseball, softball, basketball or any other sport during which eye injuries are possible, be sure your child has proper eye protection. Sports and recreation result in tens of thousands of eye injuries each year.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard. See an eye care professional for prescription protective eyewear.