How old does a child need to be to have their first eye exam?
The answer may surprise you, but the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a first comprehensive eye exam for infants as young as 6 months old. In 2005, Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation and The Vision Care Institute, LLC a Johnson and Johnson company launched InfantSEE® a nationwide program where participating optometrists provide a one-time no cost vision assessment for infants between 6-12 months.
During an exam, an optometrist is able to evaluate a child’s eye health, movement, alignment and visual acuity without any verbal cues. Vision screenings may not pick up on the subtle visual skill problems that affect the ability for the eyes to work efficiently together. These visual skills facilitate the coordination a child needs to reach other milestones such as crawling, cruising, grabbing toys with hands, and self-feeding.
Did you know that the visual system is not fully developed at birth? In fact, the system continues to mature with experience throughout childhood. Most visual skills reach adult levels by the time a child is 6 months of age but lack in control. At this age, not only has an average child reached multiple developmental milestones including sitting up with support, but he/she also begins to engage in a world full of wonderful sensory experiences. The dominant sense of vision establishes the basis for further perceptual, cognitive, and social development.
Seeing clearly is only one of many visual skills needed for efficient information processing. When vision integrates correctly with other senses, it allows children to develop to their highest level. Vision can either support or hinder a child’s learning experience so it is critical to intervene early when appropriate since many vision problems are treatable.
AOA recommends eye examinations for asymptomatic children at 6 months, 3 years of age, prior to first grade, and every two years thereafter. Children at risk for developing eye and vision problems may require more frequent evaluation. Let’s ensure that good vision is part of every child health and well visits.
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About the Author: Dr. Jamie Ho is an InfantSEE® provider located in Brentwood, Tennessee. She specializes in vision-related learning difficulties and neuro-rehabilitative optometry. In her free time, she cooks and enjoys food with her busy toddler – Selene.