Eye tests for children - your questions answered
Did you know that children should first have their eyes tested at six months, and then regularly after that, even if they don’t complain of problems with their vision?
Lots of people aren’t aware of this, or how children’s eye testing works, so we’ve broken it down by addressing some of the most common questions we hear about children’s eye health.
1. What are some of the signs that my child might be having trouble with their vision?
There’s are few signs to look out for, but some of the common ones are:
- Frequent blinking
- Holding a book close to their eyes, or sitting close to the TV
- Red or watery eyes
- Complaining of headaches
Of course they might just tell you that they can’t see properly! If you do notice any of these, then the best first step is to book in for an eye test.
2. My child doesn’t know their letters so how can they read an eye chart?
Children don’t need to know how to read, or even speak in order to have an eye test. We recommend children are first assessed at age six months. In this test we’d typically test pupil responses, fixing and following and preferential looking (images that attract the eye such as stripes).
For pre-school children we use symbols and pictures, 3D glasses and a retinoscopy, which is a test that shines light into the eye to observe reflection.
It’s also a good idea to test your child before they start school, just to make sure they’ll be able to see properly in the classroom, giving them the best chance to perform academically.
3. Unless my child complains, I don’t need to get their eyes tested do I?
We’ve found that a lot of parents are great at taking their kids to the dentist or the GP, but sometimes forget to check on the eyes too. Early detection of eye issues means that often problems can be identified and nipped in the bud. Also, it is useful to have a history of eye health so we can monitor changes over time.
It’s possible too that your child might be having problems with their eyes without realising. This can lead to frustration, disruptive behaviour, or problems learning at school. There are also some conditions such as lazy eye, which might be able to be corrected if identified early while the vision system is still developing.
4. My kid breaks everything, how do I stop him breaking his glasses?
Kids are pretty active, so we’ve selected our range of frames with that in mind. We recommend impact-resistant lenses which are super-strong to withstand knocks and bumps. We also take the time to fit the frames properly, so they don’t fall off all the time. We’ve got a great range of colours and styles too, so you can be sure that your child will find something they like, and most importantly, will want to wear. That’s particularly important if your child is getting used to the idea of wearing glasses.
5. What are some of the costs involved?
Generally, children’s eye tests are bulk billed through Medicare, so you won’t incur any out-of-pocket costs for routine checks. If you have private health insurance with extras, you might be covered for some or all of the costs of lenses and frames, if your child requires glasses. All the health funds are different, so it is best to check with them to see what you have.
We are also one of the few practices that has ultra-widefield retinal imaging (Optos). This is one of the most advanced diagnostic tools available. It produces exceptionally detailed images, allowing us to detect small changes over time that other equipment can’t pick up on. We currently offer these scans at $49, which is a great investment to build a picture of eye health for your child. Note that very young children are generally not suited for this service – just ask us and we can advise.
So that’s a quick run-down of all things related to kid’s eye health! With school holidays coming up, it’s a great time to book in for an eye test for your child – you’ll get reassurance that your child’s eyes are in good health (and they’ll get a lollypop and a sticker!).