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The Value of Vision
Why an eye exam should be a critical component of your child’s health care


By MARK CONCANNON

September 2016

If you’re the parent of an infant, you know to begin regular medical checkups shortly after your child is born. Dental checkups are required, in many cases, before your child enters kindergarten. But what about eye examinations for infants and toddlers?

Even if no eye or vision problems are apparent, the American Optometric Association recommends scheduling your baby’s first eye assessment at 6 months of age. At that time, an optometrist can

determine if your child can see out of both eyes, if your child uses both eyes for binocular vision, or if more serious medical conditions of the eye are present. Vision development and eye health problems are easier to correct if treatment begins early.

Besides being aware of these warning signs, you can also limit screen time, especially before bedtime when little eyes are tired. iPhones and iPads emit blue light, which can adversely affect vision development. You can also urge your children to go outside and play. Too much computer or TV doesn’t promote the distance vision training we all need.

Early diagnosis of vision problems is critical, says Cindy Seemann, a pediatric optician and owner of Kids Optique, a division of Design Vision Optical, in Wauwatosa. "(Eyesight) affects their confidence in school and in their social life," she says. "It allows them to participate in sports or hobbies that were closed off to them before."

But another critical reason for early eye examinations is that many professionals are beginning to believe there is a correlation between children who have never had an eye exam and those that are labeled "slow" or "special" or prescribed medication for ADHD or similar conditions. "It’s as simple as, ‘Can they see what they’re supposed to be looking at?’" says Dr. Amy Jankowski, a doctor of optometry and owner of Metro Eye in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. "If a child can’t see, he can’t read, and he can’t do his homework. We need them to spend their time comprehending what they’re reading instead of just trying to see the words.

"Too many children are getting special help with reading and math who have never had an eye exam," she adds.

Both Jankowski and Seemann are enthusiastic supporters of InfantSEE, a public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care become an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, participating optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Periodic follow-up exams are also part of the program. Jankowski is an InfantSEE provider at her office. To find a provider near you, go to infantsee.org. m

 







 


This story ran in the September 2016 issue of: