Most children do not have eye exams administered until they first show signs of poor eye health or vision problems. Unfortunately, many parents underestimate the many benefits of having their children tested early, and tested properly. Statistics have shown that majority of children entering kindergarten have yet to receive their first eye exam, even though a thorough test can detect not only vision problems, but also learning disabilities.
The common vision and eye exams that children do receive are often not effective because they are only capable of detecting a small number of impairments. A common problem with these early screenings is that the eyes will often be tested one at a time. Young eyes, especially, will accommodate significantly for one another when tested separately, skewing the results and hiding potential conditions.
The importance of vision testing for young children, younger than six, should not be underestimated. This is a critical time for eye development, and the key time to take preventative measures to avoid serious eye conditions. Many vision related problems, such as lazy eye and cross-eyes, can be treated much more effectively if identified in the very early stages.
What many parents do not realize is that early vision exams can also help children perform better in school. Obviously, it is important to ensure that the child can see well to read and write, but vision exams can also detect learning disabilities and neurological disorders. Common problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyslexia, and Autism can be recognized at a very early age by studying the child’s eye health including their neural responses and ocular alignment.
One of the common reasons children are unable to receive the testing they need is because they simply do not have affordable access to the right services. Researchers at the University of Tennessee Space Institute have created a device, the Dynamic Ocular Evaluation System (DOES) that may very well solve this dilemma. This device makes early eye exams much less expensive, while more inclusive.
This device is actually quite simple and easy to administer. The test is administered while the child either watches a cartoon or plays a video game. During the video, infrared light is used to determine binocular condition. The child’s eyes do not need to be dilated, and there is no need to rely on verbal responses to questions the child may or may not understand. The result is an exam that is quick and extremely easy to administer, and enjoyable for the child. The results to the test can be available and recorded in as little as five minutes.
Children and parents will benefit greatly when devices, such as DOES, are available in optometrist practices and pediatrician clinics across the country. Currently, the technology is undergoing clinical testing to compare the results of the device to physician’s exams. Many eye care professionals in the industry have shown great interest in implementing these devices to make eye exams more enjoyable and affective for their young patients. Hopefully, these products will be entering the market very soon.