Eyecare for Children
Development of Children's Eyesight
Babies are born with very limited vision. The first few years of life are critical in establishing good binocular vision (both eyes working together as a team). Many things can interrupt this and because both parents and children would be unaware of many of these problems, it is important to have regular check ups. Age 3 is a good time for an initial eye examination if there have been no previous signs of a problem (turned eye, clumsiness, squinting etc).
Testing children's vision
Testing children's vision is painless and usually lots of fun for them! Many parents worry that due to communication problems, children won't be able to give reliable answers. Most of our testing involves "games" which don't require verbal answers. We use different targets at different distances, special lights which can measure the eye in many ways and, from as young as 6 months, we can assess eye health e.g. whether both eyes can see equally, move well together and whether the brain is processing vision normally for their age.
The "big" chair isn't always needed. Many examinations for babies and toddlers end up happening on Mum's lap or even on the floor if that's where the child wants to be!
First to use Children's Vision Auto Refractor
At Panoptic Vision we were the first in Australia to use a children's vision auto refractor. This is a hand-held device that is positioned a meter away from the child and all they need to do is look at the pretty coloured lights for two seconds. A reading of their refractive error (needed for prescription) and other important information regarding exact eye turn amounts is recorded. Technology never replaces traditional testing, but sometimes with tired toddlers who have been asleep in the car on the way to the appointment, 2 seconds at a time is all you have!
Age 4 to 8
From age 4 to 8, children should continue to grow out of normal amounts of long sightedness. This is also when an enormous amount of visual processing develops. This is why we recommend annual checkups during this time. Many vision skills such as vision memory, sequencing, figure ground (judging the foreground from the background) and visual closure just to name a few, are all improving and are all needed for the complex task of learning to read. Sometimes children have a natural learning style that encourages some but not all of these vision skills to develop equally and so by the time they reach school age, they are not learning to read without compensations. This can lead to a struggle learning to read. There are many internationally used assessments that have been developed to test these skills and to provide developmental ages for each one.
How we can help
At Panoptic Vision we offer a 90-minute Vision Processing Assessment which allows us to determine a child's visual learning strengths and weaknesses. If there is a problem, we can then offer vision therapy activities to improve those areas.
Older school age children may also find that even after developing good reading skills, they may start to struggle with visual fatigue. Comprehensive assessment of the focussing and eye aiming muscles can determine whether spectacle support and/or vision therapy eye exercises can assist. School workloads are unpredictable and sometimes far exceed the comfort levels of eye muscles that were really only designed for hunting and gathering!