What to Expect: The First Eye Appointment

A child’s first trip to the eye doctor is nothing to lose sleep over. Here is exactly what to prep for.

eye-sight-baby

The development of visual skills is an essential part of a child’s preparation for school, sports, and all other activities they will participate in. This is why it is important to get your child to their first eye exam at around six months old. While this may seem young, by this age your child will be experiencing sharper eyesight, more accurate colour vision and better eye movement. Some pediatricians may evaluate a baby’s vision at this time and refer them to an optometrist if eyesight issues are suspected. However, if they don’t perform an assessment, book an eye exam with an optometrist yourself. Without an early evaluation, poor vision could affect your little ones for the rest of their lives.

As few of us remember our first eye appointment, the unknown territory can be daunting. To shed some light on the first appointment, we spoke with a Montreal optometrist to create this guide.

The Appointment

Making the Appointment
It is important to fit the rendezvous into your child’s daily routine. Pick a time where you think your child will be the most alert, usually in the morning or after naptime. Like the rest of their bodies, eyes will get fatigued too. Choosing a time when they are well reposed will give a more accurate assessment of their vision. It also means your child is more likely to be in a good mood, making the process less stressful for everyone involved.

Overview
The way the eye is exam is conducted can depend on your child’s age and the optometrist’s routine. In general, the first exam includes going over medical and family history, vision testing, and, if necessary assessing which eyeglasses are suitable.

Medical History
Before you attend the appointment, make a mental note, or even write a list, of your child’s medical history. Be sure to notify the doctor if your child has experienced the following:

  • Premature at birth
  • Late motor development
  • Excessive eye rubbing
  • Frequent blinking
  • Little to no eye contact
  • Issues maintaining gaze on objects
  • Unable to focus on and follow an object

The optometrist will usually want to know about parental history as well. Let them know if either parents have vision issues such as lazy eyes, near, or far sightedness. As well, inform the eye doctor of any family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma.

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The Eye Test

At your baby’s first appointment, the optometrist will usually run a few exams to see if your youngster’s eyesight is developing properly. As a baby is too young to use an eye chart, the doctor will use a variety of other tests such as:

Pupil Response Tests: This test will gauge whether the eyes’ pupils open and close properly

Fix and Follow: This is a test to establish if your baby is able to fixate and follow an object as it moves

Preferential Site: Usually uses blank and coloured cards that will attract your child’s gaze

These tests are to determine whether your child is developing the proper vision skills, such as:

  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Binocular coordination
  • Eye movement skills
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness
  • Hand-eye coordination

If your child does encounter any issues during the testing, do not stress. The optometrist will suggest a course of action, and, as the child is still young, the prognosis and outlook for your baby is often positive. Carefully and consistently follow any advice your optometrist gives you to ensure your child has the best vision possible throughout their lives.

Glasses

If you find out your child needs glasses, do not worry. By handling any eye difficulties at an early age, kids may not have to wear glasses by the time they reach adulthood, as long as the spectacles are worn as recommended. There are many options for young children today. Your optometrist will work with you and your child to find an appropriate pair, based on their level of activity and their prescription. Make sure to book regular check ups for your child, as their prescription may change. If your child’s vision improves and they continue to wear the same prescription, this will damage the eyes and undo all the work that has been done. It is important their eye regimen is continuously monitored by the eye doctor.

 

You are in professional hands, and should any problems arise they will be managed with absolute care. If you are unsure of your optometrist’s diagnosis, you can always get a second opinion, as with any doctor. What is important is to set your children up for the best lives possible, and good eyesight is a cornerstone to all the milestones they have ahead of them.

After the Appointment

After the ‘six month appointment’, the optometrist may want to see you and your youngster again for a follow-up. If not, remember to get their eyes re-checked before they start school to make sure they have not developed any complications that may impede their learning.

 

Danielle Emond is a content producer at LEEROY, a creative agency in Montreal. She enjoys writing in her own time, as well as volunteering for Almas Jiwani Foundation on the communications team. Find her on Linkedin, Twitter and see her portfolio here

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