Opticians & Children’s Eye Tests

A regular eye test is vital for age groups, but particularly for children as many will either be unaware of their visual troubles or find it difficult to communicate them.

Children’s eye tests

An optician (also known more accurately as an optometrist) is the health care professional who conducts children’s eye tests. The NHS recommends regular checks throughout a child’s development to pick up on any changes in their eye sight. It is particularly important to conduct a check before school starts as reading both books and a whiteboard can be difficult if your child has shortsightedness for example. What is simply an inability to focus clearly on words (making them appear blurry and difficult to read) can be misinterpreted as a learning difficulty. Fortunately however, there is a healthy regime for eye tests maintained in the UK, and it is an important one to stick to.

Eye tests are in fact funded by the NHS for children under 16, and any between the ages of 16 to 18 who are in full time education. Babies have their eyes tested just after birth, followed by a six week eye check usually conducted by a GP. If any visual issues are detected, your child will be referred to an eye specialist and possibly an optometrist, depending on their age and the potential eye problem. After this point it is recommended to have an eye test every two years or so, and this can be done at your local optician’s.

During your children’s first year at school they may undergo a test for lazy eyes (amblyopia). This is because the condition is difficult to detect for both parents and children alike. This test is a superficial one however, used to evaluate squints and any short- or far sightedness. It is still advisable to take your child to an optician who will conduct a full and thorough eye exam.

Does my child need an eye test?

Children, particularly at younger ages, can find it difficult to communicate what they’re experiencing if their eyesight deteriorates. However, a number of behaviours can be observed that indicate a reduction in eyesight. These can include a difficulty in reading, your child placing themselves very close to the TV or bringing objects close to their eyes, and excessive blinking.

Otherwise regular testing is key to preserving children’s eyesight as much as possible. If you have any history of visual issues like squinting, lazy eyes, short-, or farsightedness, then early and regular eye tests are very important.

Children’s eye tests

A common misperception is that children need to be able to read to have an eye test. This is not the case as rather than letters on a standard eye chart, a child’s eye test is more likely to involve careful examination using specialised equipment.

A family history is first taken by an optician, often by questioning the parent. If your child can read then a standard eye chart can be used, or one with images, to establish the limits of their vision. Any squints or lazy eyes are investigated, as are the structures of the outer and inner eye. Your child’s eye muscles are also examined to make sure they are functioning correctly, and finally tests for correct colour vision are conducted as well.

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