Early eye testing for children


Louis, now 11, is an avid reader, devouring books at an extraordinary rate. Yet two years ago, he was in “reading recovery” at his local primary school and became immediately angry whenever his parents encouraged him to read to them.

Interestingly, he’d started out okay at the age of 5 and could easily recognise letters and write his name and other small words. Then in Year 2 his parents were told by the teacher Louis had a learning difficulty and would need to go into the “reading recovery” program.

At the same time, Louis’ class behaviour declined and he became a troublemaker. At home he was getting more and more reluctant to go to school. As the novels got bigger but the print got smaller, the school and his parents realised he needed to have his sight tested.

Sure enough he was diagnosed as being acutely hyperopic, or long-sighted. Louis couldn’t clearly see the letters in the books.

Today he is well and truly out of reading recovery and in his recent NAPLAN achieved scores in the highest band for reading and comprehension.

Getting eyes tested

Eye testing is a free service for all New Zealand children under 5, and it’s suggested that children get tested regularly as their sight can change rapidly in the early years.

There are also subsidies for children under 15 if you have a community services card or high use health card.

Specsavers recommends that children should have their eyes tested by an optometrist by the age of three. Most young children have had their eyesight assessed as part of their routine development checks, however a complete eye test by a qualified optometrist is more thorough.

What could be wrong with your child’s eyes?

The most common vision problems affecting children are:

  • myopia (short-sightedness)
  • hyperopia (long-sightedness)
  • astigmatism (distorted vision)

Once recognised, these problems are usually easy to correct.

A serious condition can affect children is called amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. Early treatment of lazy eye is important as it is not possible to correct after about the age of eight and in some cases can result in permanent loss of vision from one eye.

In simple terms, lazy eye is when both eyes don’t see equally which can be caused by a squint or one eye stronger than the other.

What does an eye test involve?

Eye tests for children are not invasive or painful. They usually involve bright lights, coloured lenses or charts, and will be conducted by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist who specialises in assessing children from birth onwards.

For newborns and infants there are tests that don't require any response or knowledge of numbers or letters.


Ths article was written for Kidspot by Specsavers

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