Hopefully you don’t need to think about your new babies eyes (except for gazing into them for the hours at a time, obviously) – all babies have a quick eye screen at birth (no, I didn’t know it had happened either), and then the Health Visitor will do another at their 6wk check.
After that though, it’s up to you. Unless you see an obvious issue like squinting or eye rubbing, then it’s a good idea for hem to have their first ‘proper’ eyesight check before they start school. And don’t worry if your child can’t read yet – any decent optician has special eye tests for younger children which allow them to test the eyes effectively.
Personally, we’re big fans of Vision Express – we began going to them when our now-15yr old started school. He’s an August baby, so was still 3yrs old just a few weeks before term began; he knew some letters (but not enough for a sight chart), was shaky on his shapes, and on top of all that he was nervous about new experiences. To be honest I wasn’t convinced it was going to be worth the time getting him tested! But the optician who saw him was brilliant. He giggled all the way through, and though it didn’t seem they did much I received a reassuring report of his eyesight at the end. I just liked that Vison Express changed the whole sight test process to be fun and child friendly – it was quick & easy but clearly did everything they needed. And we’ve been loyal customers ever since – you don’t mess with that level of service and reassurance.
Once they’ve had that initial test, then the general rule of thumb is another test every two years – but definitely sooner if you think there may be a problem. And never worry about the cost; all NHS sight tests are free for children under the age of 16. We had additional test for the boys as I’m a carrier of colour blindness – sadly all three of my boys have it to varying degrees.
But even if you don’t know you’re looking for a particular inherited issue it’s an excellent idea to keep a watch for certain indicators that a problem may be brewing:
- watching the TV from too close (though this is a tricky one as every pre-schooler of my acquaintance has always loved to watch TV standing approximately 3″ from the screen…).
- Eye rubbing when there’s no obvious reason for tiredness, or infection like conjunctivitis present
- Constant blinking – my No.2 when through a period of about 6mths where he triple-blinked, ALL the time, like his eyes were hideously dry and painful. He was totally unaware of it, and regular checks proved there was no cause – a few days of eye drops seemed to stop it in the end.
- An obvious one is peering at objects held very close the face
- Issues with handwriting
- In school, issues with copying work from the board (this was my indicator; I was about 12 when I realised I needed glasses because I had to ask my friends to tell me what was on the board all the time)
- The eyes seeming to look in slightly different directions
- Having issues seeing in unexpectedly dark situations – watch for this one when you next go to the cinema