Maybe your child came home with a note saying he or she didn’t pass the eye test at the last school vision screening. Perhaps your pediatrician referred you to get your child’s eyes checked. Or maybe you’ve noticed your child struggling to read or watch TV or that one of his or her eyes crosses during the day. Perhaps you or a family member has a history of vision difficulties or a “lazy eye” and you just want to rule out any problems in your child. For whatever reason, you are being a proactive parent who wants to make sure your child is seeing his or her best.
We are glad that your first step has brought you here! Our office usually starts seeing children right around school age as they are becoming comfortable with their alphabet and numbers. While a child requires many abilities to perform well in school, good vision is fundamental. It is estimated that 1 out of 4 school-aged children have vision problems and that the eyes may contribute to as much as 80% of their learning. Depending on your child’s age and ability to vocalize symptoms, sometimes vision and eye health problems aren’t always obvious or detectable through simple vision screenings, and a comprehensive eye exam is needed. Fortunately, the earlier a vision problem is diagnosed and managed, the more likely treatment will be successful.
A child’s first eye exam need not be a stressful experience. Preparing your children (and yourself) for what their first eye exam will be like is key to overcoming any fears or anxieties they may have and can help make the overall visit both positive and fun! It all begins with an open discussion and some of our recommendations below:
Tips for your child:
1. Prior to your appointment, start talking about eyes and vision in general.
- Draw pictures of the eyes and discuss their function and role to us on a day to day basis.
- Role play your visit: make a pretend eye chart and practice covering one eye at a time and reading letters. Briefly shine a flashlight over the eyes to simulate some of the tools the doctor may use.
- Read stories about children getting eye exams, for example: Arthur’s Eyes, The Princess Who Wore Glasses, Pearl & Wagner: Four Eyes
- Explain that part of the exam involves the doctor putting eye drops in the eyes to help see the inside better, that it should not hurt, but it may sting. Practice putting eye drops in at home using artificial tears.
- Note: the doctor will decide the most appropriate drops to be used for the dilation. Sometimes stronger (longer lasting) ones are needed to determine the most accurate prescription in addition to helping the doctor view the inside of the eye. Depending on the drops used, the recovery from dilation can last anywhere from a few hours to a whole day and usually affects near and computer vision. Let us know if you require a signed excuse note for school.
2. Visit our website to view photos of our office or schedule a walk through of the clinic to see the types of instruments that are going to be used. Or if you are scheduled for your own eye exam, your child is more than welcome to sit in and watch and ask questions.
3. Bring a small toy or item from home and/or a snack to make your child more comfortable, especially during wait times.
Tips for Parents:
Some history the doctor may want to know at the time of your child’s eye exam include:
- Current pediatrician or other doctors treating your child, in case we need to share important findings with them
- Medications and allergies
- Premature birth/developmental delays?
- Any history of eye problems in the family?
- General health problems?
- Excessive eye rubbing, blinking, squinting, light sensitivity?
- Any previous glasses, eye surgery, vision therapy?
- Trouble keeping eye contact?
- Difficulties with tracking/reading?
- Behavioral isssues?
- Problems or challenges at school and home
Other tips for parents to consider:
1. Allow your child to ask any questions or address any concerns they may have about getting their eyes examined.
2. Make sure your child is well rested and fed. An alert child will give the doctor the most reliable test information.
3. Try your best to stay calm. If you are nervous and tense during the eye exam, they may feel unnecessary pressure to perform.
4. Don’t get too worried about your child giving incorrect responses; there is no “pass or fail” in the eye exam, and if needed, there are objective techniques such as retinoscopy to determine whether your child needs glasses (they do not have to communicate during this test).
5. Allow for an appointment time of at least one and a half to two hours, a portion of which will be spent waiting for the dilation drops to take effect and being fitted for glasses, if applicable.
6. Think about and write down any questions you may have and we will be happy to answer them for you during the exam.
Developing good health habits, including getting regular eye exams, starts early. We thank you for considering Eye MD Monterey to get your child on the right start to good eye sight and eye health and look forward to your visit!
-Dr. Sablad & Dr. Penrose