A Kid’s Eye Test

A kid’s eye test is considered a necessary part of the preparation for going to school. Most experts agree that, if there is a significant vision problem, this will adversely affect their learning.

However, a kid’s eye test becomes even more important if your child is struggling at school in their learning, especially reading, writing or spelling. I want to reveal to you the types of things that are done in a kid’s eye test, and why not all eye tests are the same…

What’s in a Kid’s Eye Test, and Why Should I see You?

There are many aspects to eye examinations, so not all eye tests target the same things.? It stands to reason that eye tests for children target the aspects of vision that are important for a child, especially when it comes to their learning.? So a standard adult eye test, as good as it is for detecting eye disease and the need for corrective spectacle lenses, does not necessarily apply when it comes to children.

It all starts with being able to relate to the child. Kids tend to be frightened or apprehensive when it comes to a kid eye examination, so relating to them is an essential part of testing.? Given the fact that many people, including my wife, think I have never really grown up, this enables me to relate to and communicate with children.? It also helps to set their fears aside and to establish rapport with them.

I do not know what most Optometrists do differently when they see a child, but I can reveal what I do and the tests that I perform on a child, especially a child with learning problems, ADHD, ASD or dyslexia.? Here’s what I test for…

1. Clear distance (Visual Acuity)

short sightedness in childrenEvery Optometrist should test for a child’s seeing ability.? A child should be able to see distant objects clearly and sharply. This clarity is called visual acuity and is usually measured using the familiar Snellen eye?chart which has letters of steadily decreasing size. Children who cannot read yet are usually tested using shapes, so here at Eye CU, we can test children of almost any age, or children with any disability. ?Problems with eye teaming can cause things like a lazy eye, which will also affect visual acuity, so an kid eye exam is important even before school commences.

2. Change in Focus (Accommodation)

A kid’s eye test must include testing of their focus ability.? Kids focus differently to adults, and many times their ability to focus fatigues during the school day.? The child must be able to do two things efficiently with their focus:? They have to be able to change quickly and effectively from near to distance and back again (such as when they are copying off the board), and they also have to be able to sustain their focus on a near object like a book for a long period of time without tiring (such as when they are doing homework). ?We test both of these in children routinely, and a kid’s eye test mus include this type of testing.

The most common symptoms of a focus or an accommodation vision problem include inconsistent distance or near blur, sore eyes, headaches, losing of place copying off the board and, most common of all, POOR CONCENTRATION FOR READING!

3. Aiming the Eyes (Eye Teaming)

Another important Kid’s eye?Test deals with Eye coordination, which is the ability to team two eyes together, having them fixate (look at) the same point in space with comfort and without double vision.

If the eyes do not point precisely at the same object this can cause headaches, poor concentration, tiredness, confusion or, in severe cases, double vision. This is sometimes called convergence insufficiency, and if present it greatly affects children when they read, causing them to lose their place, misread words or skip lines.

4. Eye Movements (Saccades and Tracking)

kids readingEye movement control is another essential part of a paediatric?eye exam, and it is essential for reading and ball sports, yet most Optometrists never perform this Kid’s Vision Test!

There are two main types of eye movements we look at in an eye exam for children, and both require the eyes to work together as a team. The first type is the quick and accurate movements which are used, for example, when the eyes move from one word to another while reading. These are jumping movements which are called ?saccades?.

The second type of eye movements are known as ?tracking? and these should be smooth and accurate. Tracking movements are used when the eyes follow a moving object such as a ball in flight or vehicles in traffic.

Children who lose their place a lot while reading, mix up words, misread words, skip lines and often have difficulty watching the ball while playing sport. These kids may have poorly developed eye movement skills, and they can be easily helped by the right type of vision therapy.

5. Depth perception

Depth perception is another aspect of a kid’s eye test which is often overlooked. ?It involves?the ability to determine relative distance, recognised by many as the 3D we see in TVs and at the movies. Accurate depth perception is also needed to hit a ball while playing sports, or to park a car accurately (not that many kids are doing that!). Depth perception is easily tested in a kid eye exam at?Eye CU, and my experience is that many children compromise this important skill in an effort to concentrate when they face problems with their focus or eye teaming.

6. Eye-hand Coordination

Another critical part of a?Children’s Vision Test is eye-hand coordination, which involves the eyes directing and controlling the hands.? It is especially important in writing, and also in many sports, especially small ball sports like cricket and tennis.? In younger children it plays an important role in the formation of letters and words on a page, and difficulties with eye-hand coordination are often picked up in Prep or Kindy kids when they struggle to colour in the lines.

7. Visual Memory

child seeingThe skill of visual memory is essential in reading, and especially in spelling.? Poor visual memory skills almost always result in poor spelling, but Darin?s special vision therapy program can help children to learn spelling words quicker and more effectively by training visual memory.

And let’s face it, if a child cannot visualise and remember sight words, how can they read effectively?? This is an area I love to work with, because the results are so tangible yet easy to achieve!

8. Peripheral Vision??

Peripheral or side vision is the ability to see and interpret what is happening to the sides of our vision while looking straight ahead. It is especially important for adults when driving a car and is also is key to playing a lot of sports.

However, you may not realise that it is also an important part of reading and writing for a child, helping them to maintain their place more easily and allowing them to flow as they read.? Try reading through a toilet roll so you can only see a word at a time and you will experience some of what children with learning problems go through.? That’s why a kid’s eye test is so important,. and should go beyond just the ability to see clearly on a page.

9. Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is another key developmental skill, and if this is not correctly developed, kids start to write letters and words backward. While many parents are terrified of this symptom thinking it equates absolutely with dyslexia, we have had tremendous success training spatial awareness for stopping kids reversing.


A Kid’s Vision Test is Special

I believe that a kid’s vision test should be a special experience.? Relating to children and drawing out the correct answers can give insight into their struggles with learning, and while vision is not the only consideration when it comes to learning problems, it is certainly one of the main areas parents should look at.

One of the huge advantages that the visual system offers us in learning is that it is so easily and safely treated. We can use things like reading glasses and vision therapy which safe, easy to administer and very cheap compared to many of the other areas considered in treating children who struggle in school.

So if your child is struggling to learn to read, write and spell effectively, then a kid’s eye test is a great place to start!


Testing a young childI 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 auto-refractors 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 young kids 3 and under 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.

eye test for kidsMany optometrists claim that they can do an eye test for kids, but are they all really the same and do they offer the same level of expertise and service?

And I test the kids is not the same as an examination for an adult, because for a children?s exam we need to look beyond simply whether a child can see into how they function in their school environment, and how they take in visual information, process it, and go about their learning task.

As a behavioural optometrist, I have spent years developing what I believe is the right protocol for examining children, especially children with learning disabilities. I use specialised equipment and spent a lot of time testing the balance of a child?s vision not on a chart 6 m away, but rather up close, where they do the majority of their learning.

Most importantly, kids require not only special testing but also specialized ways to treat the problems they have, especially when it comes to learning difficulties. Glasses may be useful, and we have special frames and the latest lenses for children, but you cannot put reading glasses on a child and expect them to spell better, for example.

This is why, in addition to the best and most comprehensive eye test for kids in my area, I have at my disposal a specialised type of therapy called vision therapy. This is a program that I?ve designed myself, specifically to target the visual skills children use when they are learning to read, write and spell.

As we learn, we develop the skills we need to do the job. Skills like well-controlled eye movements, well-balanced focus and the teaming of the eyes, sequencing, coding, visualisation and directional concepts, need to be developed as we grow and learn.

These are areas that regular optometrists fail to examine, and this is where a behavioural optometrist offers an eye test for kids but is far more comprehensive, and has the power to incredibly impact a child?s learning ability.

So if your child is struggling with learning, or if not concentrating on their school work, then having a comprehensive vision examination by a behavioural optometrist should be a priority. A standard eye examination is not going to reveal the kind of visual problems that 80% of children with learning disabilities exhibit.

So if you really care for your child, don?t just have a regular eye examinations and think that everything is okay. Take your child for a comprehensive vision assessment with a behavioural optometrist and make sure that vision is not holding them back in their learning.

And if you live on the Sunshine Coast, we?ll see you at Eye CU for the very best eye test for kids, guaranteed!