This subspecialty of optometry requires many years of additional study. Eye doctors within this field must have four years of college and four years of doctoral-level study, plus residency training in the field.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have their eyes examined at 6 months of age, again between the ages of 3 and 5 and every two years during the school years. If a family physician or pediatrician detects problems, he or she may refer the child sooner. Specifically trained to diagnose developmental vision problems, a pediatric optometrist can quickly treat any problems that are discovered.
Therapy may include fitting the child for glasses or contact lenses or therapeutic exercises designed to strengthen a child's vision.
Because vision affects behavior and performance, proper vision therapy can enhance and improve vision as well as behavior. This can significantly improve a child's ability to learn and pursue other activities.
Children who encounter vision problems may show signs of difficulty, which include squinting or frowning, excessive blinking or rubbing eyes frequently. If eyes turn in or out or if the child closes or covers one eye, this could indicate a problem. Even if a school-aged child passes an initial eye chart exam, he or she should see an eye doctor if a change in academic performance occurs or if he or she tires easily during school.
Children at a higher risk of eye and vision problems include those born prematurely or who had a low birth weight as well as those with a family history of eye problems. If the mother had an infection while pregnant or had a difficult or assisted labor, the odds of eye problems increase.
Finding a specialist could involve asking for a referral or doing your own research. Check Angie's List's member reviews online and ask questions before making an appointment to make sure you are seeing a physician that will suit your child's needs.