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Eye tests, when, why & what to look out for

Honest question: When was the last time you had your eyes tested? Truthfully? Because the reality is that most of us don’t go as regularly as we should. And it is super important for kids to have their eyes tested routinely, so that if anything is wrong, you know about it sooner rather than later.

If you’re not sure where to start, the NHS has some very helpful advice about what to expect in terms of sight testing for a newborn through to pre-school age.

Many schools carry out a vision screening in Reception classes but this isn’t the case in all areas nor would this be available for children who are home-schooled. Regardless of whether your child has had a sight test at school, many parents advise booking a free optician’s appointment for school-age children, even if there are no obvious concerns.

The good news is that eye tests are free for young people under the age of 16. If your child is under 19 and they are in full-time education, they are also eligible.

Even though serious eye conditions are rare in young children, regular routine check-ups can identify problems and the sooner these are detected, the sooner a child can receive the help and treatment they may need.

Personally, I was a little concerned about taking my son for his first eye test. He has a complex speech disorder and I was worried that the optician wouldn’t be able to understand him and it could be a negative experience. I spoke to the optician before the appointment and they were so helpful. I did act as translator for some of it but the optician was extremely sensitive and put both of us at ease throughout the process, which was incredibly thorough. If your child has any additional needs, it is worth speaking to the optician or at least leaving a message for them in advance. Just like with any situation, reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure your child not only receives the best care but that the experience is a positive one.

Vision screenings can identify a lot more than whether or not your child can see clearly - you can expect that your child’s eye muscles will be examined and their colour vision assessed, as well as whether there is unusual pressure on the optic nerve. All of this contributes to a general picture of their overall health, and opticians may ask questions about your child’s hand / eye coordination, clumsiness, and headaches.

I know that I am guilty of putting off these routine appointments by brushing it off with a ‘but he’s fine!’ comment. Hopefully this information may encourage you to book your child - and / or yourself - in for an appointment, just to be on the safe side.


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