Roughly one-third of children in the United States wear glasses or contact lenses, yet a shocking number of children don’t have the glasses they need. In the last year, 14% of all 5th graders went without needed glasses. At the same time, nearly a quarter of teens whose vision could be easily corrected were wearing an insufficient or out-of-date prescription; For Mexican-American and African-American teens, that rises to 33%.
Why Are Glasses So Important?
If children can’t see, they can’t learn. From reading a book to seeing the board at the front of the class, vision is an essential tool for learning. Without good vision, children often develop lower motor and cognitive function and begin to fall behind in school. Additionally, some vision problems are correctable in early childhood, but will eventually become permanent.
Does Your Child Need Glasses?
Most children don’t notice that their vision is blurry because it’s all they’ve ever known. In fact, nearly half of children first notice that they struggle to see when they can’t see the board in school.
Watch for these signs of poor vision:
- Tilting head to the side
- Squinting eyes
- Covering one eye
- Hold things close up to see better
- Frequently rubbing eyes
- Complaining of headaches
In school-age children may also have trouble reading or begin to struggle with school work due to poor vision.
Infant Vision: Developmental Milestones
Infants can’t tell us if they can’t see, and won’t show the same symptoms as school-age children. Instead, watch for your infant to reach these milestones. A significant delay in reaching any of these milestones could indicate a vision problem or other development issues.
- Maintaining eye contact (8 weeks)
- Smiling at familiar people (3-4 months)
- Watching and mimicking hand movement (5 months)
- Looking at and reaching for objects (6-7 months)
- Recognizing familiar faces (7-9 months)
- Pointing to pictures in a book (9-12 months)
Vision Care: The Eye Exam
All children should have regular checkups for vision and eye health, and many will have vision screenings in school. But these screenings usually only test for distance vision, so if you start to notice warning signs it’s time for an exam.
Traditional vision exams, where you read letters from a chart on the wall, aren’t recommended for children 3 and younger, and maybe more difficult for children from different cultural backgrounds. Instead, preschoolers’ vision will be tested using instruments that allow the doctor to examine the eye’s structure for both health and vision. For infants, screenings are using done by evaluating the child’s progress toward developmental milestones.
Getting the Glasses
If it turns out your child does need glasses, don’t fear too much. Most children actually like wearing glasses, and the younger they are the better they feel about it. It can take a while for children to get used to wearing glasses, so follow these tips to help them with the transition:
- Let your child their frames
- Introduce glasses slowly
- Praise them for wearing their glasses without a reminder
Check out this infographic to learn more about how to know when your child needs glasses:
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