I am often asked if it is possible to do an eye test for kids under 3 years of age. As a behavioural optometrist, I’ve done this many times, but the prospect of examining the eyes of a child under three years of age is daunting for many eye care practitioners.
Problems in Doing an Eye Test for kids under 3
One of the major problems you face when testing a very young child is that they do not know their letters, so establishing how well they can see has to be done differently. While there are different approaches to this, from a tumbling letter E to various forms of picture charts, I have designed a special chart using simple shapes which has proven to be an effective way of judging the singing ability of young children.
The next hurdle for an optometrist in an eye test for kids under 3 is that young children cannot judge differences with the same competency that older children or adults. For this reason it is impossible to do a standard test on a young child, asking them, “Which is better, number one or number two?”
While modern technology has provided instruments like autorefractors which can provide an estimate of a child’s prescription, most behavioural optometrist like myself prefer to use an old, hands-on method which gives us a unique opportunity to look at the focusing ability while we estimate prescription. This instrument is called a retinoscope, and while most optometrist know about it very few are able to use it effectively because they have very little practice! After seeing thousands of children almost daily for the last 20 years, I have definitely had my fair share of practice on this specialised instrument!
The third problem in doing an eye test for kids under 3 is the treatment becomes much more difficult. If glasses are required, we will often require specialised frames and lenses to do the job properly. My team and spend a lot of time researching and obtaining these specialised frames and lenses at inexpensive price for our patients.
I also have available and extensive array of vision therapy, which can be adapted for very young children and can help to overcome vision problems before they have a serious effect on learning. While this may be an easy thing for me to apply for even young children, it is because of years of experience and expertise but I’m able to do this. Conventional optometry can offer little for young children other than a pair of glasses, which commonly fits badly and is often easily broken.
If your child has never had an eye test or if you are concerned that they are delayed in their learning or other growth milestones, then it is possible to get an eye test for kids under 3 if you take your child to a behavioural optometrist who has specialised in taking care of children’s vision for decades.