Regular eye examinations for the young are important as poor eyesight can impair a child’s ability to learn at school. It can also be a major factor in reading disorders such as dyslexia.
At what age should children start having their eyes checked?
Children are never too young to have their sight tested. Early detection means common childhood sight conditions such as squint and amblyopia can be treated more easily and more effectively. Good vision during a child’s early years can also help them fulfil their academic potential. Using specialised equipment it is possible for infants as young as six months to be examined to detect the early signs of strabismus (deviating eyes) or refractive error (long-sightedness, astigmatism etc.).
Why is it so important to get children checked at a young age?
The early detection of visual problems, such as amblyopia (‘lazy eye’), can make a huge difference to a child’s vision in the future. If the cause of the visual impairment can be corrected at a young age it vastly improves the prognosis for developing good quality binocular vision. However, it is estimated that one in five children of school age has an undetected vision problem that could restrict their ability to learn, read, write and spell.
But my child doesn’t know their alphabet yet. How can you check their eyes?
A common misconception with a sight test is that it only involves reading letters from a chart. Whilst a visual acuity measurement is important, it is only one aspect of a child’s eye examination. Instead of letters we often use numbers, pictures or simple patterns to benchmark acuity depending on age. We use an iPad test chart and LCD display distance chart to make visual acuity measurement easier.
My child is shy and gets easily intimidated...
He or she will find having their eyes checked with us a lot of fun. We often use cuddly toys, videos, games and puzzles to make the whole process as enjoyable as possible; to the extent that they often don’t want to leave once the examination is over!
Okay so how much does it cost for children to have their eyes tested?
Nothing. Children under 16 are automatically covered by the NHS; as are those 18 or under and in full-time education.
What about if my child needs spectacles?
Gone are the days of children having to endure ‘NHS glasses’ and the stigma attached to them. Modern frames are trendy, comfortable and most-importantly durable! If a child does require visual correction then the NHS covers a large part of the cost of the spectacles as well.
Can anyone dispense children’s spectacles?
No. The dispensing of spectacles is governed and regulated by the Opticians Act (1989). Rather worryingly, in the U.K. spectacles can be dispensed to adults by unregistered and unqualified persons. However, children under 16 are still protected. Spectacles can only be supplied by or under the supervision of a GOC registered optician. Obviously
My child is already under the hospital for their eyes.
When a child is already receiving regular eye checks at the hospital then there is no need for them to have a check at the opticians too. At each visit the hospital specialist should issue an NHS voucher that will help towards the cost of any spectacles required. We gladly accept vouchers issued by the local Hospital Eye Service (HES).
Meares Irlen Syndrome and Visual Stress
Meares Irlen syndrome, often referred to as 'visual stress', is named after the two researchers who first discovered the connection between white page "glare" and reading difficulties in the early 1980s. It is also called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, although scientifically it has now been shown that this is not a very accurate term, as it refers to an area of the visual system that is not actually affected by the condition. Visual stress is the name most commonly used in the UK.
As yet, there is no proven scientific explanation for visual stress. Many experts agree that the problem is visual-perceptual in nature, most probably originating in the visual cortex of the brain, arising from a deficiency in one of the visual pathways. Because it is perceptual, rather than visual in nature, it is not corrected by prescription glasses, and it cannot be detected by standard visual, educational or medical tests.
We provide coloured intuitive overlay testing for Meares Irlen syndrome and we can dispense corrective overlays as and when required. It can make a lot of difference to a child’s reading fluency and therefore academic prowess. If your child is struggling with their reading it may be worth asking one of our team about visual stress and whether an overlay assessment would be beneficial.