When should kids receive their first vision screening?
The first screening is actually done when a baby is born as part of their newborn check up. Additional vision and eye health assessments are done with each subsequent primary care evaluation throughout childhood. When a child is old enough to provide information about their eyesight at pediatric appointments, about age 3 to 5, a visual acuity assessment should be performed. Oregon passed a law last year mandating that all children receive a vision screening before they start preschool, kindergarten or first grade.
The beginning of the school year is a good opportunity to identify vision problems. What should parents look for?
Pay close attention to see if your kids are having trouble seeing anything at all – Can you see something your child cannot? Are they rubbing their eyes or having trouble while using an iPad or computer? If you have any concerns, you should have their vision examined, either at the pediatrician’s office or by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
What does a provider need to know about a child’s vision?
If you’ve noticed any of the following, be sure to let your child’s provider know:
- Your child’s eyes are not aligned or are red or irritated
- Your child squints to read certain things
- Your child appears to have more difficulty seeing compared with other children or yourself
The biggest concern is that alignment issues might be caught too late, causing permanent vision loss. Kids may not know that they have vision problems, making it even more important for parents to keep an eye out for them.
How can parents protect their kids’ eyes while playing sports?
Kids who are who are performing in athletic endeavors should use eye protection, especially with small ball sports – tennis, baseball, golf, etc. If a ball hits your child’s eye, it can rupture the globe.
What about eye safety and screen time?
I tell my patients to use the 20/20/20 rule when doing focused activities that involve screen time on iPads or computers: Take a break every 20 minutes and look beyond 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps the eyes to recover after prolonged near focusing effort.
What resources are available to parents to have their children’s eyes checked if they can’t afford an eye exam?
Casey Eye Institute Elks Children’s Eye Clinic offers free vision screenings in partnership with the Oregon Elks Association and libraries around the state through their See to Read program (click here to view a schedule). Other charitable or civic organizations like the Elks and Lions Clubs offer free vision screenings. If a family doesn’t have insurance and has eye concerns, start with your pediatrician’s office or a school screening. Some nurses may also screen for vision problems.