Children’s Eye Exams

My son, let’s call him Alex, was starting to read and recognize letters, so I asked him to tell me the letters in the headline of the newspaper. He looked at them and identified them in English and then French. Then I said, “Cover one eye and tell me the letters.” Again he told me all the letters.

I asked him to cover the other eye. “But mom,” he said, “If I do that I won’t be able to see.” I was flabbergasted. That’s how we found out our son had difficulty seeing.

We immediately made an appointment with an Optometrist and then with a child Ophthalmologist to identify what was going on. We had not anticipated any difficulties with his sight and happened to stumble across a significant discovery while playing a game one afternoon. We detected, by chance, that Alexr had trouble with his vision. Our son, a healthy, vibrant 51/2-year-old boy, loving to read and take part in sports, is amblyopic.

Amblyopia, or Lazy Eye, is where the vision in one eye is weaker than the other. I found it comforting to know that according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists fact sheet, “Facts about Children and Vision”; my son was one of the three per cent of children to have “Lazy Eye”.

The Ophthalmologist was positive that early treatment would help rectify the situation. Early treatment is required and if left untreated the child’s brain will develop a clear picture with the good eye, which means the weak eye, won’t function well. The child’s brain will then ignore the weak eye and use the stronger eye in attempt to see and therefore never develop vision in their weak eye.

Alex’s left, weaker, eye was stuck in the early stages of development. His brain filled in the blanks. And we, as active involved parents, did not even have an inkling of what was happening. He now wears glasses to stimulate development.

We now know that the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends an eye examination for children before their third birthday and again each year while in school. This is to detect common, treatable problems such as strabismus (crossed-eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) or the need for glasses.

Had we known what to look for we may have caught it sooner. In hindsight, I remember him turning his head to read or look at a book. Now I know that he was using his ‘good’ eye to see. He did not display any of the other common symptoms such as; rubbing his eyes, avoiding close work such as reading or colouring, complaining of headaches or avoiding sports.

The Ontario Association of Optometrists identifies that 1 in 5 children have a vision problem. Detecting vision troubles is not as difficult as it sounds. Prepare yourself to observe your child and find out if s/he is seeing properly.

Now, a word of advice, get your child’s eyes checked before they start school. We did not get our son’s eyes checked until he was 5 ½ and we only got them checked because, by accident, we found a problem.

Vision Test for Children

The vision test for children is similar yet different than the adult test. For a young child, an optometrist won’t go through all the usual tests and questions of an eye exam. Children are not required to read or recognize alphabet eye charts. Pediatric ophthalmologists have special eye charts with ducks, hands, cars and motorboats. Eye exams can even be performed if your child isn’t talking yet.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends that a thorough eye examination should include:

o A review of your child’s health and vision history.

o Tests for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, color perception, lazy eye, crossed-eyes, eye coordination, depth perception and focusing ability.

o An eye health examination.