What age shall I get my child’s eyes tested?
The most important thing here is to note that your child does not have to be able to read or talk to have a sight test. There are many methods that a qualified optometrist will be able to utilise in order to check your child’s vision, and a qualified optometrist can perform an eye examination on a child as young as 6 months old if necessary.
Babies can see when they are born, but their eyes don’t always focus accurately. A baby’s eyes may squint sometimes (they may not always line up with each other), but if their eyes always seem to squint, this should be investigated. Their eyes develop gradually and after about six weeks they should be able to follow something colourful or interesting with their eyes. An easy test you can do at home when a baby is over six weeks old is to see if your baby’s eyes follow you around a room. If they don’t seem to be able to focus on you properly it could suggest a problem and should be checked by an optometrist.
All children should be tested but many will have excellent sight and will not need to wear glasses. Don’t expect your child to tell you if there is a problem. Children assume that the way they see is normal – they will never have known anything different!
If your child has special needs, or there is a history of a squint or lazy eye in the family, or if a history of family members needing glasses when they were young, it is really important to get their vision checked.
Some children may have vision screening done at school. However, the earlier any problems are picked up, the better the outcome. If there are problems and they are not picked up at an early age, your child may have permanently reduced vision in one or both eyes. If you have any concerns about your child’s eyes, or if there is a history of squint or lazy eye in the family, do not wait for the vision screening at school. Take your child to a local optometrist for a sight test.
If your child presents with any of these signs or symptoms below it is important to have an eye examination;
- One eye turns in or out – this may be easier to spot when the child is tired.
- They rub their eyes a lot
- They have watery eyes
- They are clumsy or have poor eye-hand co-ordination
- Your child avoids reading, writing or drawing
- They screw up their eyes or frown when they read or watch TV
- They sit very close to the TV, or hold books or objects close to their face
- They have behaviour or concentration problems at school
- They don’t do as well as they should at school
- They complain about blurred or double vision or they have unexplained headaches
The NHS pays for sight tests for children under 16 years old, and also those aged 16 to 18 in full-time education. If your child needs glasses, the NHS will give you a voucher, which may cover the cost of glasses or you can put it towards the cost if you want more expensive glasses. Children under 16 can only have glasses dispensed by a registered optometrist or dispensing optician.