As adults, we quickly notice when we encounter a problem with our eyes. Whether we’re suddenly starting to struggle to see things close up or far away, our vision is blurry or we see flashes or floaters – we know to see a professional and get it sorted as soon as possible. Unfortunately, children don’t do this. Any changes with their body, a child will most likely accept as normal; after all, their bodies are constantly changing – they outgrow their clothes, lose their baby teeth and they’re constantly learning new skills at school and at home.
Thankfully, there are a handful of children who will tell you; “Dad, I can’t see the board at school,” or they will make subtle changes in their behaviour we can pick up on – like sitting closer to the television, frowning or blinking a lot, or holding a book closer to their face. And whether your children shows any signs or symptoms of vision problems or not, it is still a good idea to take them to regular checks at their opticians to spot any potential problems before they get worse.
We recommend that you start taking your children for annual sight tests after they have their school health check (this is usually around ages 4-5) where their height, weight and vision is assessed before they begin attending primary school. These sight tests not only help to determine if a child will need to use glasses, they can also detect early stages of common vision problems such as lazy eye. If you have a family history of eye conditions, please do not wait for this school health check, get your children assessed as soon as possible – your child does not need to be able to read to undergo a sight test.
If a child is suffering from poor eyesight, especially at school or other learning environments, they can develop learning and behavioural problems which may be blamed on other things, not their eyesight. This is especially common in younger children who may find it difficult to explain to their teacher or parents the difficulties they are experiencing with their sight – in some cases, they may be unaware they have a problem at all.
We offer a walk-in service for all children’s appointments – if you’re in the neighbourhood, pop in for a chat! Through NHS funding, sight tests for all children under the age of 16 are completely free, and if you meet certain criteria, you can apply for additional help to pay for the cost of glasses or contact lenses if their child needs them.