The Apple of my eye, a very English expression to describe something or someone that we cherish above all else. Highly likely to be your children then.
In terms of our health, most people cite their sight as the most precious sense they have, and once lost, despite great improvement in treatments, you can hardly recover it.
From these statements it would seem logical that you and your children would have your eyes checked very regularly. Well that’s not the case!
Parents are more likely to bring their children to the dentist than the optometrist!
I’m not throwing a stone there as there’s little advice coming from health institutions and care practitioners.
The almighty red book has one page dedicated to it, and notes that your child will get a visual screening during reception/year 1. The test performed is only a ‘screening’ which means only the visual acuity and a quick testing of the ability of the eyes to work together is done. It’s NOT a full check up.
In Gloucestershire, visual screening usually starts in January so your child has already done a few months at school and potentially struggled until he finally gets referred for additional testing.
So unless a parent senses something is wrong, a child’s vision can deteriorate and impacts his/her well being or ability to learn.
I’ve listed below a few pieces of advice:
1. You can bring your child to the community/local optometrist at ANY age. Explain your concerns upon booking and the receptionist will check with the optometrist that he is comfortable with infant/toddlers. We all receive the same training but some might feel uneasy with it. Personally I love it, children keep you on your toes, you need to be quick, inventive and funny. And as long as I give a sticker in the end, I’ll have a friend.
2. Any child under the age of 16 is entitled to at least one free eye test every twelve months, all opticians should provide this.
3. Eye problems are not all as obvious as an eye turn. So check for a child consistently turning his head to one side when looking at something close up, watery eyes, constant rubbing or blinking. Complaints of headaches or eye ache, a child that avoids reading. Or simply a child that doesn’t perform as well as he should at school.
You can find more informations about signs to look out for at different stages of development here .
4. A child, especially when young, will not complain about not seeing. For him, his vision is the norm, he doesn’t know it’s supposed to be different.
5. A good age to start to have eye tests is around 2.5-3 years of age even if you think they are all fine. They can usually recognise a few pictures, are interested in the instruments and lights, and it’s good to get them used to that type of appointments as the higher their age the more tests we will perform. We won’t throw the whole range of tests on a young child to start with, but that way they trust us and we can build a good relationship. Nobody likes having someone coming so close to you!
There’s plenty of videos that you can find on YouTube for different age groups (I love watching the baby ones, they always try to snatch up your equipment but they looooooove watching bright light).
Our dear friends Peppa pig, Charlie and Lola have all had an eye test, OK it’s not a gold standard eye test but it gives the idea of something interesting to do. Even the good Dr Ranj from Get well soon hospital did an episode on eye tests!
6. They might throw a tantrum, scream, cry, refuse to participate or not say a word and that’s OK, don’t worry, we’ve seen it before. We will rebook and try a different day until we get testing done. A child doesn’t need to be verbal to have an eye test, in that case the optometrist uses objective techniques that don’t require verbal participation.
7. Book yourself in and bring your child so they get a sense that nothing scary happens.
8. Don’t beat yourself up if your child gets glasses. They can be temporary or for life, contact lenses are an option and later on in life refractive surgery. Don’t make them feel different as they’re not, it’s only glasses!
9. It’s even more important to bring your child early on when they have learning disabilities such as Autism or Down’s Syndrome (non exhaustive list obviously). These children are more likely than others to have visual impairment and the sooner it’s detected the better we can help them. The examination might take longer or will need a few appointments. Explain upon booking and the receptionist should help you to book at a day or time of the day when it suits your child.
I hope you found this helpful. Holidays are the right time to book your school age children in, rhythm is more relaxed, they get time to adapt to any new glasses, and let’s face it, it’s one activity to fill a day (with the promise of an ice cream if they behave 😜 ).
Photos credits to the Association of Optometrist image library.
A Guest Blog from Christelle Busset
Christelle is 34 and is originally from France. She has been living in the UK and Gloucester for the past 6 years and has been married for 4 years. She and her husband have 2 girls: aged 1 and 3. Christelle is an optometrist.