Children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life, academically, socially, and athletically. High-quality eye care can break down these barriers and help enable your children to reach their highest potential, and our eye center can help! As a parent, make sure you are giving your children the eye care they need. Here are some guidelines from the American Optometric Association.

Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn. But did you know your baby also has to learn to see? As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby’s vision develop.

At about age 9 months, you should take your baby to your doctor of optometry for his or her first thorough eye examination. Things that the optometrist will test for include excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism and eye movement ability as well as eye health problems.

These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Our eye center can help. The earlier these issues are diagnosed, the earlier they can be addressed and corrected.

Unless you notice a need or your doctor of optometry advises you otherwise, your child’s next examination should be around age three, and then again before he or she enters school.

During the first four months of life, your baby should begin to follow moving objects with the eyes and reach for things, first by chance and later more accurately, as hand-eye coordination and depth perception begin to develop.

Lighting, changing your baby’s crib positioning, appropriate toys, and normal interactions are all things that can help your baby’s eyes develop normally.

As they start using their arms and legs, turning from side to side and such (between 4-8 months), eye movement and eye/body coordination skills should develop further and both eyes should focus equally.

From eight to twelve months, your baby should be mobile now, crawling and pulling himself or herself up. He or she will begin to use both eyes together and judge distances and grasp and throw objects with greater precision. To support development don’t encourage early walking – crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination; give your baby stacking and take-apart toys, and provide objects your baby can touch, hold and see at the same time.

Hand-eye coordination and depth perception will continue to develop as your child becomes more mobile — their gross motor skills will make significant gains between the ages of one and two.

Preschool Vision

During the infant and toddler years, your child has been developing many vision skills and has been learning how to see. As children begin starting to read, this might show some early signs of visual acuity and potential problems. As always, our eye center is a great place to visit to get your child’s visual health in check! Our eye doctors are highly skilled and compassionate when it comes to working with children.

Here are signs to watch for that might indicate a vision developmental issue:

  • Short attention spans
  • Difficulty with gross motor skills (such as catching or throwing a ball or struggling to ride a bike)
  • Avoiding fine motor activities (such as cutting with scissors or coloring)

There are everyday things that you can do at home to help your preschooler’s vision develop, as it should. By reading aloud to your child and letting him or her see what you are reading, teaching them how to color and use playground equipment, and encouraging play time, you’re encouraging normal and healthy growth on all fronts (including vision).

By age three, your child should have a thorough optometric eye examination to make sure your preschooler’s vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your doctor can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem. If they haven’t yet, it’s not too late — see our list of services and contact our eye center to make your toddler’s appointment.

Here are several tips to make your child’s optometric examination a positive experience:
1. Make an appointment early in the day. Allow about one hour.
2. Talk about the examination in advance and encourage your child’s questions.
3. Explain the examination in your child’s terms, comparing the E chart to a puzzle and the instruments to tiny flashlights and a kaleidoscope.

Unless your eye doctor says otherwise, you won’t need to schedule a visit with the optometrist until your child turns five.

School-Age Vision

A good education for your child means good schools, good teachers and good vision. Your child’s eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. So when his or her vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer.

Here are some types of vision that your child uses while at school:

  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Eye movements (physically being able to move the eye)
  • Focusing vision
  • Peripheral vision
  • Binocular coordination (using both eyes to see together)

If any of these or other vision skills is lacking or does not function properly, your child will struggle, and likely suffer.

Be sure to tell your optometrist if your child frequently:

  • Loses their place while reading
  • Avoids close-up and focusing types of work
  • Holds reading material unusually close to their face
  • Rubs their eyes
  • Has headaches
  • Turns or tilts head to use only one eye
  • Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • Uses finger to keep their spot while reading
  • Omits or confuses small words when reading
  • Consistently performs below their true potential

Vision changes can occur throughout the year. For this reason, make sure your child gets into the eye doctor at least once every year. But as always, trust your instincts as a parent — if you notice any of these things and suspect something is up with their vision, take them to the eye doctor sooner.

Protective Eyewear

Protective eyewear is highly important for children (and adults alike) to use. Far too many people sustain life-changing injuries to their eyes, all of which could be prevented had they been protecting their eyes. If you have questions about eyewear to consider, contact our eye center to get further information.

Children and Contact Lenses

The important thing for parents and their children who wear contact lenses to remember is that contacts are prescribed medical devices. Contact lenses are not a cosmetic accessory. While the wearer may be happy about his or her new look, it’s extremely important that the lenses be properly cleaned and worn according to the instruction of the optometrist.

There’s a lot to know about child vision, but it can make a huge difference in understanding your child’s health. For more information, get in touch with our eye center in Punta Gorda today!