Beginning at the age of 2 ½ and continuing until your child enters school, you can make observations of your child’s visual development. It’s important to note that these tests can be indicators of potential vision problems, but they should in no way be substituted for a comprehensive vision examination.
The Vision Therapy Center recommends that a child’s first exam should take place at the age of 6 months. Children under the age of 12 months receive a free eye exam as part of the InfantSee program.
Hold a small, interesting toy 8 to 10 inches directly in front of a child’s face, and tell them to watch the toy with just their eyes. Move the toy back and forth, at moderate speed, across a distance of 12 inches. Do this 6-8 times, making sure the child’s eyes are maintaining alignment with the target.
Next, repeat the same procedure, but move the toy up and down.
Finally, point out an object on the other side of the room, like a clock. Using the same toy, have the child look quickly from the toy to the clock, so that his or her eyes are moving from a close object to a more distant object. The eyes should move freely and quickly, without dramatic head movements.
Each of the eyes has its own field of view. In this test, you’ll be determining if the eyes can synchronize their fields of view, so they can work together to read a textbook page or items on the board.
Hold a playing card over one of your child’s eyes, and then hold the same small toy 6 inches in front of the child’s nose. Tell your child to look carefully at the toy. When you see that he or she is focused intently, quickly remove the card.
Up to the age of three, you should expect the uncovered eye to have to make adjustments to find the toy. By ages 4 to 4 ½, there should only be a slight adjustment.
Even though a child may be able to see an object and its details clearly at a distance, you should conduct this test. It’s possible they may be seeing clearly with one field of view, while the other is blurred.
Using the playing card, cover one eye and ask the child to name and describe objects in the distance. Next, have the child shift the card to the other eye, and repeat the process. If they have difficulty describing the same level of detail, clinical attention may be needed.
Attention should be given to objects at reading distances, as this will obviously influence the child’s ability to read. Using the same playing card, cover one eye at a time, and ask the child to describe fine details in a favorite picture book. Once again, the level of detail should be similar for each eye.