Your child’s first exam should be at 6 months of age. During an eye exam for children, the optometrist will assess for the normal development of the eye and visual system. We will also discuss what to expect as your child grows older. All testing at this age is objective, and the exam takes only 10 minutes. As with all children, the cost of the exam is covered by Alberta Health.

Children of school age are seen annually to ensure that their vision is not affecting their learning and school work. In fact, 1 in 4 children diagnosed with a learning disorder actually has a vision problem. Although screenings are conducted in some schools, they are not adequate to detect all vision issues. Alberta Health covers the cost of eye exams until your child turns 19.

If your child is 13 or older, visit our Teen Eye Exam section for further details on what to expect during a routine eye exam.

Your child’s eye health is important. Here are some answers to common questions and concerns, answered by our friendly family optometrists located in our Calgary eye clinic.

Q: How can you examine my child’s eyes at 6 months when they cannot talk, what should I expect?

A: This is an eye exam for baby wellness that requires no verbal response on their part and generally lasts no more than 5 minutes. Examination involves shining various lights into the eyes and assessing eye movements. We are looking for sight threatening diseases such as congenital cataract, infantile glaucoma, retinoblastoma and anything that could potentially affect normal development of the visual system.

Without any response on their part, we are also able to get a good idea of their vision and refractive prescription (using an instrument called a retinoscope). We look into their eyes to assess eye health using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. We are also looking for any eye turns (lazy eye), high degrees of astigmatism, near or far-sightedness, accurate eye-tracking, and we even screen for proper neurological development as it relates to the eyes. All of this can be done accurately and objectively using our various instruments. Unless there is a very high prescription or eye health disorder, there is rarely any treatment at this age.

Q: How often do they need eye exams?

A: If all goes well at the 6-month visit, we schedule another eye exam at age 3. At this visit, your child will be able to see pictures and respond to basic tests for vision, depth perception, color vision, and eyeglass prescription. We generally keep their attention using cartoons and games, and we will use automated equipment to obtain more data. Since the visual system is actively developing until about age 8, we must ensure both eyes are receiving clear images and working together. If your child has any signs of vision impairment, we will talk to you about treatment options that may include eyeglasses, eye exercises and possible eye patching or vision therapy to ensure a lifetime of clear vision. Exams are generally scheduled annually through the school years to ensure they continue to see to their full potential

Q: If my child wears glasses, will their eyes become lazy and get worse?

A: This is a common misconception. In fact, the opposite is true. We now have reliable studies that demonstrate how near-sightedness (myopia) will actually progress faster if not fully corrected with glasses. Myopia is related to excessive elongation of the eyeball and will not slow down with a reduced or absent eyeglass prescription. Furthermore, inadequate correction of far-sightedness or astigmatism will only lead to eye fatigue, squinting, and blurry vision that may lead to poor school performance and learning. Read more about the latest advances in myopia control.

Q: My child can see the smallest details and never complains about vision, why do I need to bring him or her in?

A: 80% of learning is visual. Furthermore, up to 40% of children with learning disabilities have an undiagnosed vision problem. It is important to remember that a child cannot tell you if they have a problem with one eye if they do not know any different. Lazy eye (amblyopia) is of particular concern. If a child has a lazy eye that is not corrected before the age of 7, the chances of ever seeing well out of that eye are extremely low. Having both eyes function together allows us to see 40% better, and is important for depth perception and hand-eye coordination. A comprehensive examination is also important to screen for both eye diseases and systemic diseases that have no other symptoms.