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How do I Prepare a Child for an Eye Exam?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2018
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Eye exams are important for children because they can help diagnose conditions that require treatment early in order to get best results, and they can spot vision problems that may interfere with schoolwork. In fact, undiagnosed vision deficits can have a significant effect on a child’s ability to perform well in school, and corrective measures, like glasses, can make a world of difference. When the eye exam takes place at the pediatrician’s office, it is minor in scope and usually doesn’t require preparation. It may be helpful to prepare a child for an eye exam that occurs at an optometrist or ophthalmologist’s office, however, since these exams are more extensive.

The reason kids may require preparation is because the exam benefits from children being able to sit fairly still and tends to go better when kids aren’t scared. The unfamiliar can be scary, so it’s helpful to explain what will occur during the exam and to answer any questions the child has. Fortunately, most eye exams are not painful, unless the exam is to evaluate an eye injury. This means that once kids understand what will occur, there are few reasons for them to be frightened or worried, although shy children may continue to be concerned.

Age matters when parents prepare a child for an eye exam. Younger children under the age of five shouldn’t probably be told much about the exam until right before it occurs. Very young children are not likely to remember much of the conversation, and they usually don’t understand time completely. Kids in the five to eight age group might benefit from being told what to expect on the day of the exam, perhaps a few hours before the procedure. Older children can be told a day or two before, provided they won’t spend the time worrying.

To help prepare the child, give him general information about what will occur. Let him know that the exam isn’t likely to hurt and that mostly, he’ll be looking at pictures of things like letters, numbers, and shapes, and telling the doctor what he sees. The child might have some drops placed in his eyes, but these are also painless. Concerned kids can be reassured when parents guarantee that they’ll be in the room the whole time, although older children may not wish their parents to stay. Parents of teens may need to promise to stay outside during the exam.

For kids who are really traumatized by medical professional, there is one extra way to prepare a child for an eye exam. Schedule an exam for either parent or an older child and let the worried child attend. A patient doctor might be willing to field a question or two from the child as a parent or sibling’s eyes are examined. Showing a child what occurs and that it is painless can help alleviate concerns.

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