Doctor visits seem to fill up much of a child’s first several years: check-ups, shots, sick visits, and more. The child sees a pediatrician, as well as a dentist and, if necessary, specialists such as speech language pathologists. Parents may be hesitant to add another doctor to the list, but young children need to see an eye doctor as much as the dentist or pediatrician. The eye is an extremely complex organ, and if problems are not detected early on in a child’s life, those problems can become difficult to reverse later, if at all. Your child should have an eye exam even if they seem to have good vision; some children may not realize that they have poor vision if their vision slowly deteriorates from a young age, and some issues, such as lazy eye, may not show any visible signs or symptoms. Vision is learned between birth and 5 years old and a child doesn’t recognize if their development isn’t normal. Treatment at the earliest age possible not only enhances proper vision development but also general brain development impacting their entire life including personality and behavior.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have their first eye exam between 6-12 months of age. In fact, the AOA places such importance on this exam that they developed a public health program called “InfantSEE®.” Eye doctors who participate in this program offer free comprehensive eye exams to infants between 6-12 months of age. Our own Dr. Mary Gregory participates in this program; if you would like to schedule an appointment for your infant, please call us at 763-271-2020 or visit our appointment request page.
Children should have a second eye exam at 3 years old, a third at 5 years old, and then every 1-2 years afterward, depending on if the child has vision problems or not. Although schools do vision screenings they are not every year, and these cannot and are not meant to replace a comprehensive eye exam. School screenings test a child’s vision 20 feet away and not where learning takes place which is within arms reach. Let your child’s eye doctor know if your child fails a school vision screening or you have any concerns with their learning and reading. See our checklist for common symptoms of a vision related learning problem. Children at risk for vision disorders may require additional or more frequent eye examinations; risk factors include family history of eye disease, difficult or premature births, infection of the mother during pregnancy, and central nervous system disorders. Come prepared to fill out a detailed medical history for your child at his or her first eye exam.