From ages 3 to 6, your child will be fine-tuning the vision already developed during the infant and toddler years. Older preschoolers are learning how to use sports equipment and working on the fine motor skills needed to write their names.
Watch for the warning signs of visual problems, such as:
- Loses their place while reading
- Avoids close work
- Holds reading material closer than normal
- Tends to rub their eyes
- Has headaches
- Turns or tilts head to use one eye only
- Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
- Uses finger to maintain place when reading
- Omits or confuses small words when reading
- Consistently performs below potential
Farsightedness and strabismus are common problems with this age group. However, some problems might not have a sign; only an eye doctor can tell.
If your child exhibits no symptoms of a visual problem, he should have an eye exam by the age of 3. Having a complete eye exam even before the child enters school allows enough time to catch and correct any problems while the visual system is still flexible.
If your pre-schooler needs glasses, make sure your child understands why. Explain that he/she needs glasses to see clearly, and give specific examples of the benefits, such as that he’ll be able to see the words in his books better or will be able to play catch with his brother because he can now see the ball.
School-age children should receive an eye exam before entering kindergarten and regularly after that if they have no visual problems. If your child requires glasses or contact lenses for refractive errors, schedule visits every 12 months.
A vision screening performed by your pediatrician or the school nurse is not a complete eye exam. These screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem and do not take the place of a visit to the eye doctor. Studies even show that these screenings miss sight-threatening eye conditions.
If a visual dysfunction is part of your child’s learning difficulty, special lenses or vision therapy may help. Should your child’s visual function not be an issue, ask your eye doctor for referrals to the appropriate specialists. Visit your family doctor or pediatrician as well for more information on diagnosing your child.