As parents, it’s so exciting when we bring home that little bundle of joy and begin to anticipate their future growth and achievements.
For infants and toddlers, their developing eyesight is of the utmost importance. But for those little ones that don’t necessarily communicate so well, it can be difficult to know if they are experiencing problems with their vision.
Experts agree that children should have their first eye exam at six months and then the next before they enter school, usually around age five or six. They also report that 5 - 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. So the gap between birth and 24 weeks and waiting another half-dozen years is a critical time for parents to be on the lookout for possible issues with their youngster’s eyes.
What to Look For
While it would take an eye expert to diagnose something like astigmatism (a warping of the curvature of the cornea), there are still some ways parents can take charge of their child’s vision during this young age.
Take a look (pardon the pun) at these three red flags when it comes to your children’s eyesight. They’re easy to remember given this A-B-C format. You should check regularly for these important signs to safeguard your child’s sight:
This one is perhaps the easiest to spot of the three. By the age of 4-6 months, a baby’s eyes begin to stabilized and should be properly aligned. If they’re cross-eyed (strabismus), have a wandering or “lazy eye,” they should be taken to see an ophthalmologist immediately. There are treatments available that can help to correct these conditions before they become permanent.
When your child is playing with books and other toys, do they bring the object close to their eyes to get a better look or draw it away at arm’s length? By the age of 18 months, a child’s vision should begin to mature enough to see things clearly at a reasonable distance. If they’re not focusing on items, this could be a sign there is a problem with the proper development of their vision. Also watch for squinting as they could be trying to correct the problem themselves.
Look for cloudiness in the pupil and surrounding area, which could be a sign of infant cataracts. Although rare, this condition needs to be treated immediately to prevent further damage. Similar to older children and adults, if not treated surgically, the tissue continues to deteriorate and it could cause permanent vision loss or even lead to blindness.
Be on the lookout for any unusual vision or eye behavior that seems out of the ordinary. For example, while it’s cute to watch a baby rubbing their eyes with their tiny, little fists, if they’re doing it consistently, there could be trouble.
When it comes to protecting our children’s invaluable vision, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and take them to “see” a professional.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.