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Your baby should have his or her first visual exam at 6 months of age or sooner if a problem is evident. If you notice your baby's eyes turning outward or inward (lasting more than a few seconds) or any other signs of eye problems.
How to Help Your Baby's Visual Development
1 month - Hold and feed your infant from alternating sides to promote adequate visual development of both eyes. Place your baby in his or her crib from different directions. Also, periodically change the location of the crib so the infant can see the world from different viewpoints. Hang a mobile off to the side so your baby can see it through the slats of the crib. Change the position of the mobile every other day.
2 months - Allow your baby to explore with his or her hands. Provide stimuli of many different textures, sizes, weights, and forms. Place a lightweight rattle in your baby's hands and help him or her shake it.
4 months - Allow your baby to help hold the nursing bottle, and provide clean, smooth objects that can be explored with mouth and hands. Start to play the "patty cake" game.
6 months - Play "peek-a-boo" to develop visual memory. Move the crib mobile closer to your baby so it can be reached and hit to make it move. Tie bells on booties so the infant can learn about his or her body through sound and movement.
Take your baby in for his or her first vision examination.
8 months - Talk to your baby frequently so he or she can associate experiences with words. Place objects on a highchair tray that can be pushed off and dropped to the floor.
It is recommended that infants have their first vision examination at six months of age. This initial assessment can detect any eye or visual abnormalities which were present at birth or which might develop shortly thereafter. Even if no problems are found, a second examination should be conducted at age three, and a third prior to entering school at age five or six.
Pre-School Vision Exams
A vision examination is a very important step in preparing children for that first day of school. During the school years, good vision is essential to the ability to read and to learn. Any vision problems need to be detected and treated before they lead to a learning and/or behavior problem.
If the pre-school or kindergarten offers a free vision screening, be aware that the screening might be incomplete. Many free school vision screenings do not test important visual skills, including eye teaming (binocular vision). Children need a comprehensive pre-school vision examination.
Exams for School-Age Children
Once in school, children should have a professional vision examination at least once every two years. Children considered at risk for the development of eye and vision problems may need more frequent re-evaluation.
If your child struggles with reading, it is important to have a thorough vision evaluation by a developmental optometrist, or an optometrist who provides an in-office vision therapy program. This evaluation is focused on how your child uses his or her vision throughout the school day as well as when working on homework (and even playing sports!).
Routine eye exams are designed to evaluate the overall health of your child’s eyes and determine if glasses are needed to be able to see the letters on the board in school. A developmental optometrist evaluates how your child’s eyes move when reading, how well they work together, as well as how easily and quickly they can change focus from looking at a book at her desk to looking at the board (in addition to evaluating the overall health of the eyes and whether or not glasses are needed).