By Jessie Eden
When it comes to the vision of your child, there are few things more important. But, how do you wrestle a 3 month old into sitting in a chair so that an eye doctor can examine their eyes? It is no easy job. So, we sat down with Dr. Josiah Young, OD, MS, of Opticare to learn more about what to expect during an exam. Enjoy!
FTM: How do I know if my child needs an eye exam?
Dr. Young: Vision is so important to child development. 80% of learning is done through vision, and we actually are not born with great eyesight. We learn to see from our interaction with the world. Young children do not know how to tell you that something is wrong with their vision because they don’t know that it isn’t normal! And there is more to vision and learning than just reading the eye chart. The eyes must work perfectly together as a team for optimal performance in reading, sports, and all sorts of daily activities. So the only way to truly know if your child has a vision problem is to have an eye exam done by an eye doctor. Luckily the state of Kentucky has recognized the connection between vision and learning. We live in one of only a few states that requires an eye exam for all children entering school.
FTM: What should parents do to prepare for the exam?
Dr. Young: Performing an eye exam on a preschool aged child is different than the adult eye exam. It is comprised of the same basic diagnostic components, but the attitude of the child (that day) can greatly affect your ability to perform the testing needed. When scheduling the appointment, office staff may ask parents to bring the child in well rested and preferably after a meal. A tired or hungry child, as most parents know, is not cooperative for anything, let alone an eye exam.
FTM: How will the doctor conduct the exam?
Dr. Young: For these exams we work quickly to keep the child’s attention. We try to make it light and fun, like the child is just playing some games with the doctor. For really young children or non-verbal patients, we have special equipment that can allow us to do a good exam without the child ever saying a word.
FTM: What would you say to parents who are worried about their children being afraid?
Dr. Young: Building trust with the child is the single most important element to a successful exam, and your doctor will be focused on doing this. Bounding into the room wearing a white coat with a strange piece of equipment in hand may scare the child so, for this reason, I do not wear my coat for examining children. I ask simple questions about their name and age to help them warm up to me. Depending on how they respond to these questions, I can get a read on how the rest of the exam may go. I ask them if they’d like to play some games to help check their eyes, which usually works well.
FTM: If you have a child that is 5 and very busy... how do you keep them interested in the exam?
Dr. Young: Older children are natural helpers. Having them “help” the doctor perform some tests is usually something that interests them. For example, I ask the child to hold a light and shine it at my eyes. I ask them to tell me if my eyes “are working OK” as we shine light into my eye. Then, I'll turn the test around and say, “Now let’s see if your eyes are working OK too.”
FTM: What about toddlers?
Dr. Young: Since Kentucky requires an eye exam before starting public school, we see lots of toddlers getting ready for preschool. These are some fun exams and much different that the adult eye exam. All it takes is a few minutes of some fun games and shining lights and we’re done with the exam!
FTM: Will they need to get eye drops?
Dr. Young: That’s probably my most asked question. Children often have very large pupils, which can allow us to take a good look into the eyes without dilating them. It depends on a few factors like how cooperative the child is, how high their prescription is or if there are eye health issues, but we only use eye drops to dilate kids if we absolutely need to do it. And even then we have some tricks to use to make it easier on the child.
FTM: How do you examine babies?
Dr. Young: When doing an infant vision exam, many of the same rules apply as the young child exam. You should bring in the child well rested and recently fed. Mom or Dad can sit in the exam chair and hold the child to keep them comfortable. The doctor may also have a few toys or lights to change around for getting the child’s attention.