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Children and the importance of regular FREE eye tests

child looking through a magnifying glass

Can you see what I see?

Has your child got an undiagnosed vision problem?

Every time schools start up again after a break, many parents go through their normal ‘to-do’ list to get their children ready:

  • New School Shoes
  • New School Uniform
  • Haircut
  • School Supplies

But have you checked that your child will be able to see the white board? Children with bad vision usually accept it as normal and don't realise they have a sight problem.

The Importance of the "Back to School" Eye Exam

National statistics show that only 20% of children have their eyes tested regularly, whereas 92% of us will take our children to the dentist every year. What is worrying is that 20% of students starting their reception year have been found to have an undiagnosed vision problem.

Many of us remember the days when we had our eyes tested by the school nurse and assume that it is happening for our children. However, 70% of primary schools in England offer no visual screening. Even if your child has had some form of ‘vision check’ at school, this would not have included an examination of the health of the eye, which is equally important.

child with blackboard

Studies have also shown that undetected eye conditions can have a direct link to a child’s educational performance. 80% of children with learning difficulties have an underlying visual problem. In other words, if a child is having difficulties seeing what is on the white board or computer screen, they’re far more likely than other children to become frustrated with the whole learning process and consequently underperform.

Therefore it is vital that you take your child to see a qualified optometrist before school starts, but the best part is that it will cost you nothing! In the UK, all children are eligible for a FREE NHS EYE EXAMINATION up to the age of 18 (as long as they are in full time education).

I know my child can see, so why is an eye exam so important?

Of course you know if your child can see, but can you tell how well they are seeing?

Babies are born with very immature brains and poor vision, which matures into normal adult vision by the time they have reached eight years old. However, their vision will only develop normally if they can see clearly. Therefore, if a child is eight or older before the problem is detected this may mean it is then too late to correct their vision fully.

However, the earlier a problem is diagnosed, the higher the chance your child will have of developing normal adult vision. So, the best way to ensure that your child has no underlying visual problems is to take them for an eye examination, which can be performed from as young as two and half years of age.

At Arnold’s Optometrists we use a wide selection of tests specifically designed for children, so your child does not need to be able to speak, recognise letters and/or be able to read for a qualified optometrist to make a competent assessment.

Optometrists Beth Wingfield and Sarah Arnold both agree; “Bringing your child for an eye examination at the pre-school stage is the best way to make sure that your child starts school being able to see clearly”.

However, an eye examination is not just about seeing clearly. During the eye examination the optometrist will also check the health of the eye, determine if there is any sign of a lazy eye / squint eye, check your child’s colour vision, and more.

Therefore, at Arnold’s Optometrists we recommend that children be taken for an eye examination by the age of three and every two years after this (unless your optometrist advises otherwise).

child with books

So, what if my child needs glasses?

The popularity of children’s frames has increased so much over the past couple of years (thanks to Harry Potter!) that your child will be spoilt for choice at Arnold’s Optometrists.

The NHS provides a voucher towards the cost of spectacle lenses for children and here at Arnolds we cover the rest, meaning no additional cost to you.  These days there are no free NHS frames, but one of the ranges we offer is free of charge with the voucher.  Other frame choices are also available, ranging from fashionable teen frames to the Flexon Titanium frames, which are virtually indestructible and suitable for the more adventurous child.  If you are worried that your child is likely to break their glasses the moment they receive them, the NHS do offer repair vouchers (only for the current prescription). 

Some children might only need their glasses for a couple of years to help the eye while it is still growing and developing, other children may need them for the rest of their lives. Either way, here at Arnold’s Optometrists, we have G.O.C. registered and qualified dispensing opticians who will ensure that you will get the best advice and the best products to suit your child’s needs.

How should I prepare my child for the eye examination?

Many young children may be nervous about attending their first eye examination so here is a list of things to consider:

  • Schedule the eye examination for a time when your child is well rested.
  • Make the time to sit down and explain to them what will happen during the eye exam, maybe they could watch while you have your eyes examined?
  • Reassure your child that there are no wrong answers during the eye exam and encourage them to say exactly what they see.
  • Bring along a favourite toy and/or snack in case there is a waiting time or if your child needs some familiar comfort.

So if your child has never had an eye examination, whatever age they are, book an appointment at Arnold’s Optometrists soon for peace of mind, and have them going back to school being able to see well enough to learn and play.

Optomap Advanced Digital Retina Scan for Children

We also recommend that every child has an optomap scan since it can detect problems which can remain undiscovered in any normal eye examination. Please see our Children's Optomap Page for more details.