Throughout the first year of life, as your child grows and develops, so will their vision. Your baby's eyes are checked shortly after birth and during well-baby visits throughout the first year. All babies should receive an infant eye health examination by six months of age. Babies usually see movement first. Full term babies should be able to see their mother's facial expressions within a week of birth. Color vision and depth perception aren't yet fully developed and eye muscle coordination is also very immature. Babies often have eyes that are turned in, turned out, or not working as a team, a condition referred to as strabismus. If this condition does not resolve itself by the age of three or four months, please contact us, or set up an appointment.
Between ages four and six months, your child should start to reach or bat at the mobile toys you hold in front of him. From six to eight months, your child will roll over and may learn to crawl. From eight to twelve months, your child may be crawling and walking. Encourage crawling rather than early walking to help your child develop eye-hand coordination. Parents should pay attention to how their child's eyes move and fixate on an object. If you notice anything of concern to you, please contact us, or set up an appointment.
From ages three to six years, your child will be fine tuning the vision already developed during the infant and toddler years. Older preschoolers are learning how to use sports equipment (i.e. catching a ball) and working on the fine motor skills needed to write their names (i.e. coloring). Watch for the warning signs of visual problems, such as sitting too close to the television, or holding a book too close, squinting, head tilting, eye rubbing, and sensitivity to light. Farsightedness and strabismus are common conditions with this age group. However, some conditions might not have a sign; certain conditions can only be detected by your eye health care professional.
If your child does not exhibits any symptoms of a visual condition, the first regular eye health examination should occur around the age of three. Another complete eye health examination should take place before your child enters school, which allows time to catch and correct any conditions while the visual system is still flexible. This is so important that the state of Wisconsin sends home a form urging parents to have an eye health examination for their child before their first year of school.
Look for these signs of poor vision:
- squinting, closing or covering one eye, excessive blinking or rubbing
- dislike/avoidance of close work, short attention span, frequent daydreaming
- placing head close to a book, losing place while reading
- complaints of headache, nausea, dizziness, excessive clumsiness
- turning or tilting the head to one side
School-age children should receive an eye health examination before entering kindergarten and on a regular basis throughout their school years. If your child requires vision correction for refractive errors, schedule an eye health check-up yearly. A vision screening performed by your pediatrician or school nurse is not a complete eye health examination. These screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual condition and DO NOT take the place of a regular health check-up.
Undetected vision problems can lead to difficulties in school. According to research published in the Journal of Behavioral Optometry by Roger Johnson, Ph.D. of Old Dominion University, there is a significant relationship between undetected vision problems and reading, learning, and behavioral difficulties.