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Vision viewpoints: Your top childhood eye questions answered

Posted on May 4, 2023 in Healthy You

boy in classroom

Vision care should be part of any child’s total health plan, but it may be overlooked if you assume your child has perfect eyesight. Dr. Chad Overman, Delta Dental of Iowa’s medical expert for DeltaVision®, shares important information parents and caregivers should know about childhood vision.

Q: What are the common vision problems in children and how can they be addressed?

Dr. Overman: Children can have the same vision problems of adults, including blurry vision, but we also want to test specifically for eye tracking ability, as this can play an integral part of their learning. Eye tracking is your ability to follow an object from left to right smoothly and quickly. Poor eye tracking is linked to poor reading ability, so doctors focus on this particular vision aspect a lot when it comes to kids.

Q: What are the signs that a child may have a vision problem?

Dr. Overman: A change in reading comprehension or a decline in grades can often be a sign of eye tracking problems. Squinting, rubbing eyes excessively and headaches when reading are also signs that warrant a call to an eye doctor. It’s a good idea to talk to your child’s teacher(s) if you have concerns, as they may have additional details to share about your child’s behaviors that may shed light on whether a vision issue is at play.

Q: When should children have their first eye exam? And what's a typical schedule for vision appointments for children?

Dr. Overman: I like to have a baseline eye exam before kids start kindergarten. From there, we can decide if a child needs yearly follow ups or possibly more often. Of course, if you see signs that your child may be having a vision issue, you shouldn’t wait to schedule a vision exam with an eye care professional. 

Q: What types of glasses are best for children?

Dr. Overman: For adults, the right pair of glasses usually means having the correct prescription, which allows them to see clearly and comfortably. But kids often have different priorities. In my experience, kids need to have a pair of glasses they like or they won’t wear them. Two important considerations for kids are weight (the frames should feel light and comfortable) and color (if they love the frame color, they’re more likely to enjoy wearing them). Allowing kids to lead the decision making on their glasses goes a long way toward ensuring they’ll actually wear their glasses (and not hide them away in a desk at school).

Q: How can parents promote healthy vision habits in their children?

Dr. Overman: The best way parents can support a child’s healthy eyesight is by reducing the amount of near work/screen time. Get kids outside playing as much as possible. If they are on screens regularly, adding anti-glare lenses and/or blue light blocking filters to your child’s lenses will go a long way toward helping them.