When Should My Child Get An Eye Exam?

kids wearing sunglasses

by James K. Miyasaka, O.D.

A child’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They learn to focus and move their eyes while using them together as a team to fixate on a target. The brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information from the eyes to understand and interact with the world. The foundation for motor development such as crawling, walking, and hand-eye coordination also comes with the development of eyesight.  There is a higher risk of eye and vision problems if your infant was born premature or if showing signs of developmental delay, you may require more frequent visits to keep watch on your child’s progress. Your child will be seen by an optometrist if anything doesn’t seem right at any time and ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist more about your infant to 24 month old about these certain milestones of vision development. 

My child is between the ages of 2 to 6, what should I expect? 

The toddler and preschool age are a period when children experience the most growth in intellectual and motor skills. During this time, they will develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and perceptual abilities that will prepare them to read and write. Playing sports and participating in creative activities such as drawing, coloring, sculpting, and building things are great things to do to develop these key skills that your child will need for the rest of his or her life.

During this time is the most common time you will find vision problems. If you notice your child having a cross eye or an eye turn (Strabismus), which are key signs of an underdeveloped eye “Lazy Eye” (amblyopia). Parents should watch if a child’s eye turns in one direction, closes an eye, squints, day dream gaze when you are talking to them, or having an eye turn in pictures should bring this up to their optometrist. An untreated “Lazy eye” will lead to amblyopia, which is an underdeveloped eye which may never be fully corrected to 20/20 if it is not treated at this critical point of your child’s vision development. Which will lead to eye strain, headaches, double vision, or loss of depth perception. 

kid wearing sunglasses on a scooter
Protect your eyes from the sun.

Parents should be aware of any developmental delays having to do with numbers, letters, color recognition, and coordination as it may be related to a visual processing issue. If your child has a hard time focusing, not paying attention, playing sports, learning to read, and gets frustrated easily when doing a task, it may be a great idea to bring them in for a pediatric eye exam. 

For ages 7 to 18 your vision should be at its best. Undetected or uncorrected vision problems can cause children and teens to suffer academically, socially, athletically, and personally. If your child is seeing double, skipping lines when reading, can’t see the board, color blind, or having loss of depth perception issues, they will struggle drastically in the activity they are doing. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are depended upon both eyes working as a team. Children that have problems with focusing, reading, depth perception, hand eye coordination will often experience frustration and may lead to behavior problems as well. They may think this is how “normal vision” is but it is unfair to them that they need to work two or three times as hard as the student next to them who may not have a vision related problem. Remember 20/20 doesn’t mean you have “perfect vision”.  20/20 just means you can see an 8.75mm target 20 feet away while covering an eye. You can see 20/20 with each eye but when you have both eyes open you see double which will be hard to focus and learn things yet alone play sports. 

young boy undergoing vision therapy for lazy eye
Vision therapy can help strengthen eye muscles.

So how do we correct vision issues? 

We should first evaluate your child for an eyeglasses prescription and balance both eyes as equal as we can. If a child has a “lazy” eye or an eye turn, we strengthen that eye by doing vision therapy. Vision therapy is a progressive program of vision procedures that help strengthen the eye muscles. The eye is very unique, and it has muscles inside the eye itself that helps focus on what you are looking at. You also have 6 large muscles around the eye which helps it turn in a certain direction. Vision therapy is physical therapy for your eyes which helps by training the brain to send a signal to your eyes. Your brain tells your eyes what to look for which needs your eye muscles to work in sync to help tracking your words when you read, adjusting your focus from near, on your notepad, too far while looking at the board, which will improve your depth perception. 

We strongly recommend protecting your child’s eyes from the sun. Wear 100% UV protective lenses when outside. Developing good habits will go a long way and prevent other ocular diseases.

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If your child experiences the following, please make an appointment with your family optometrist or ophthalmologist:

  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Eye turn
  • Skips words or lines when reading
  • Blurred vision
  • Can’t catch sports balls
  • Reacts slow to things
  • Processes things slow
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Short attention span

At “Dr. Jimmy’s” office, he offers full comprehensive pediatric and adult exams. We offer vision therapy, specialty contact lens fits, ocular disease treatment and management, and refer out to other specialty medical professions to provide the best care for our patients. We are accepting new patients and referrals. Dr. Jimmy also runs a sports foundation called Menehune Sports Foundation. They have sports programs and clinics that help young children from 2 years and older by doing sports vision therapy. We use sports as a vision training tool to help them develop the important eye skills that will be needed in the classroom and for the rest of their lives.

“Dr. Jimmy’s” family practice is located in Kaimuki:
James K. Miyasaka, O.D.
3615 Harding Ave. Suite 208
Honolulu, HI 96816.
Tel: 808-734-8870
Email: drjmiyasaka@gmail.com

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