Routine eye exams are important—regardless of your age or physical health. They are especially important for children, who may not be aware that they have a vision problem.
According to the American Optometric Association, children should have their first eye exam at around 6 months, and then again at age 3. Another exam should be performed at 5 or 6, when they start school, and once a year thereafter.
In many cases, a regular eye checkup can detect symptoms of serious health conditions, such as diabetes. But an eye exam may also uncover an answer as to why a child is having difficulty in school. Left untreated, vision problems can hinder your child’s learning in school. Dr. Lisa Draper, an optometrist who specializes in pediatrics at Simon Eye Associates, says routine eye exams help kids reach their full potential at school. “Perhaps they aren’t living up to their potential because they can’t see the board, or maybe they don’t know their letters or can’t read as well as other students simply because of their vision,” she says.
An 8-year-old girl recently came in for an eye exam with Dr. Draper because she was having difficulty in school. Her teacher had been specifically concerned that the girl had dyslexia, but all the eye testing done by the school had come back normal. During her eye exam, the girl’s vision was mildly blurry—but not blurry enough to fail a school screening. However, she did show signs of an eye teaming disorder, a visual deficiency that prevents both eyes from working together in a precise and coordinated way. Draper also identified an astigmatism in the girl’s glasses prescription—which helped her to see more clearly, both far away and up close—and got her started in new glasses for school.
When the girl came back for a checkup a few months later, her eyes were no longer struggling to work together. “Her eyes were clearer and they lined up perfectly, making focusing and reading much easier,” Draper says. Best of all, the girl’s mom said her grades were on the upswing, and that her behavior at school had also improved. “Glasses alone won’t fix these issues for every child—sometimes we need to use vision therapy or prisms, or work alongside reading teachers to improve the student’s skills—but other times glasses can make a world of difference,” Draper says.
Draper says parents can be on the lookout for a few telltale signs of vision problems in their children. Parents can identify a wandering eye or excessive squinting when their child is reading. Frequently rubbing his or her eyes might be an indication that the child is having trouble focusing; frequent headaches toward the end of the day should also be monitored.
Draper emphasizes that a yearly eye exam with a child’s primary care doctor is not the same thing as a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. “Parents are often lulled into a false sense of security when their children get their eyes checked at their primary care doctor,” Draper says. In addition to evaluating eyes for glasses and contacts, an eye doctor is also checking for eye diseases and other problems that could lead to vision loss.
Guided by the motto “Eye Care for Life” since 1987, Simon Eye Associates has grown from a single private practice in Wilmington to six locations throughout Delaware. Founded by Dr. Charles Simon, the practice specializes in routine eye exams, emergency care and treatment of diseases, and contact lens evaluations. LASIK and cataract surgery consultations and follow-up through Ophthalmology at Simon Eye are also available.
Visit Simon Eye’s website and Facebook page, or request an appointment.
Simon Eye Associates locations:
5301 Limestone Road, Suite 128, Wilmington
Fox Run Shopping Center
116 Fox Hunt Drive, Bear
Middletown Crossing Shopping Center
472 E. Main St., Middletown
2625 Concord Pike, Suite A, Wilmington
912 N. Union St., Suite 1, Wilmington
19 Haines St., Suite B, Newark
4001 Kennett Pike, Suite 128, Greenville