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  • Maria Wheeler

"Is it Time for Your Child's First Eye Test? What Parents Need to Know"

"At what age should my child have their first eye test?" this is a question I get asked A LOT.

In short, I recommend that children should start having annual eye examinations from the age of just 12 months.

This might surprise you as you may have heard people say to wait until they are 6 or 7 and know their letters.

We are lucky in the UK. When a baby is born they will have a new born health check within the first 72 hours. This is the first time their eyes will be checked.

Then again at the 6-8 week health check a basic vision check it performed.

After that your child will be under the care of a health visitor. Who will refer you if they see any obvious outward signs of an eye problem or if you raise any concerns.

In the absence of any concerns raised I would recommend that you start making annual appointments with your optometrist when they are about 1 year old.

A child this young won't be able to do an eye test in the same way that you are used to.

I am not going to ask a one year old to read out the letters on a chart. Or ask them which lens is better 1 or 2?

Lets face it most 1 year olds are not going to cooperate very much at all.

The first visit or two, is all about getting used to going to the opticians.

We have a selection of toys; fingers puppets, torches, little animals that make a noise and light sticks. Using these we can get an idea if the eyes are working together as a pair. We can check the muscles of the eyes by moving around.

I can use a torch to tell if they are focussing correctly or if they might need glasses.

I can use a different torch to look into the eye and check it's healthy (and this is usually where I get pushed away or the eyes close tight).

There are ways of testing the visual acuity of very young children. But I don't use these often as they will get easily bored - and this sways the results.

By the age of 18 months a child will start to match pictures. So I will use a vision chart - with pictures instead of letters. You or your child will have a card in your hand. And the child has to point to the correct picture that I am showing.

At this age we can do some colour vision test - with a magic wand and look at some cool 3D pictures.

If a child is comfortable and familiar with the opticians, they start to get interested in the big machines. They can sit on Mum or Dad's knee and look into the machine. This will allow me to take a photograph of the retina. For children, I find this much better than using a torch or a slit lamp as it is a very quick flash and it's done.

By the time a child is 7 years old, their eye test is not going to be much different to that of an adult.

The important thing is to choose your optometrist wisely. Not all optometrists will test a child under 6 or be confident to do so.

Book your child's first eye test today. Ask for Maria at Nicholson Eyecare and be sure that your child's eyes are in good hands. Call today on 01425 673343 or book on line.

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