By Dr. Gabriel Taub

The American Optometric Association (AOA) estimates that up to 80 percent of learning occurs through a child’s eyes. That’s why, as we find ourselves at the beginning of another school year, your child’s eye health should be as important as your annual visit to the pediatrician. An eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help prevent potential vision issues that could impede your child’s progress both in school and during extracurricular activities.

With the amount of time children spend looking at smart boards, tablets, and computers, it is important to make sure that they entering the classroom without any vision issues that may prevent them from doing their best. Schedule regular eye exams just prior to the beginning of each school year—and if you haven’t made an appointment yet, don’t fret—it’s never too late to look after your kid’s eyes!

You should also schedule an eye exam at any time of year if you notice that your child is experiencing any of the following:

  • Squinting while reading or watching television
  • Losing his place when reading
  • Avoiding reading and other close-up activities altogether
  • Headaches
  • Blinking
  • Rubbing eyes constantly
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness and tearing of the eyes
  •  Tilting his head to one side when viewing something
  • Holding reading materials very close to his eyes

Some children might be stressed or frightened about a pending eye exam. Below are a few things you can tell them to expect, to alleviate some of their anxiety.

With a little knowledge beforehand about what is involved, eye exams don’t have to be stressful or scary for either the child or the parent. They should know that none of these tests are painful or difficult!

  • History:  This will cover any complaints and pre-existing conditions
  • Age-appropriate visual acuity testing: Using an eye chart, the doctor asks the child to read letters or name pictures
  • Cover testing: This test detects misalignment of the eyes. While the child focuses on a target, the examiner covers each eye one at a time to look for a “shift.”
  • Motilities:  The child is told to follow a target over a circular path.  Tracking problems and head movements are noted.
  • Stereopsis:  Testing the ability to see a 3-D image with polarized lenses.  A fun test that children enjoy that also reveals important information about their vision.
  • Color Vision Testing:  This is especially important for boys, since 8-10% of males have color vision deficiencies.  Less than 1% of females have such deficiencies.
  • Retinoscopy:  While the child looks at a far target (picture chart) the optometrist uses a retinoscope to measure the amount of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism (an oval shaped cornea).

Finally, sports injuries resulted in 20 percent of emergency room visits for kids aged 5 to 9 and 41% of visits for children aged 10 to 14, according to a recent study.

Thankfully, protective eyewear can prevent 90 percent of eye injuries. Children’s sports glasses, which are traditionally made from impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, feature a goggle shape in plastic or polycarbonate with padding to absorb impact. Be sure to ask your optometrist about options that are just right for your little sports star!

Dr. Gabriel Taub has practiced at Cohen’s Fashion Optical for 18 years. Throughout the month of September, the store is offering free eye exams to kids ages 5-16 at participating locations. 

Photograph by Ernst Vikne via Creative Commons

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