The short answer is that most kids, whether they have blurred vision or sharp vision, should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age, then at 3 years old, then before entering 1st grade (and every two years after that), according to the American Optometric Association. What information could we possibly get with kids that young? The honest answer is that we’ll get as much information as the youngster will allow us to on that day. Try to get your kids an appointment at a time of day where you expect maximum cooperation (e.g. after they’ve had a nap). Our goal will be to assess the overall health of the child’s eyes (we’ll dilate the eyes if possible to see as much retina as possible) and determine if glasses are required or if we can wait till the youngster’s next visit and re-assess.
Whether you have one child or a whole flock of youngsters, many parents don’t really have a good understanding of when their kids should get their first eye exams. Parenting is hard enough, and after spending all that energy and time trying to keep little Johnny from falling out of trees and/or running across the road, the eyes often (and understandably) are not high priority (especially if the eyes look pretty normal and there are no complaints of blurred vision).
Of course, noticeably cross-eyed kids will be brought to the eye doctor’s office very early, but what about kids that look “normal” to the untrained eye but actually need glasses? Many parents (especially parents who have never worn glasses themselves) mistakenly assume that because their kid doesn’t complain about blurred vision and doesn’t walk into walls or have an obvious eye turn, that they don’t need glasses. THIS IS OFTEN NOT TRUE.
Kids grow, and so do their eyes. If they’re near-sighted, far-sighted, and/or have astigmatism, they will likely have some degree of blurred vision at some (or all) distances, but kids often don’t realize they can’t see as well as they should! After all, their eyes don’t hurt, and the world has always looked this way to them, so it’s their “normal”. Far too many kids that get their first pair of glasses in their teenage years are shocked that it’s possible to see individual leaves on trees (or track a curveball from the pitcher’s hand)! While it is true that not all kids are going to be top athletes or scholars, so many parents have told me that they noticed their kids performing much better in their sports and even in school shortly after getting them their first pair of glasses (or contact lenses). I’ve heard too many times things like “We thought he was just clumsy” and “He likes to read now!”
It’s more than just being able to see sharp details at all distances, though. When your kids see us for the first time, we’re assessing the health of the eye from the front (cornea) to the back (retina). Of course we check for prescription as well (hyperopia/myopia/astigmatism/etc.), but it’s a comprehensive eye health exam first and foremost. Unlike most school screenings, comprehensive eye exams performed by eye doctors can detect subtle eye abnormalities and even serious conditions like tumors and other retinal abnormalities that are not readily apparent to the untrained eye and not typically perceptible to the child.
Please don’t wait for your kids to report blurred vision before bringing them in for a comprehensive eye exam. All parents want to set their kids up for success, whether that be learning to read (and actually enjoy it!), excelling at sports, or really appreciate a Colorado mountain view. Don’t forget about the eyes! ☺