When a Child Needs an Eye Exam

Acknowledging that proper eyesight is essential for success in school, Kentucky, in 2000, became the first state to enact a mandatory eye exam for all students before they enter public school.

“It’s absolutely a good thing,” said Dr. Rick Graebe, a behavioral optometrist in Versailles.

An eye exam can ease a parent’s mind and ensure that a child possesses the tools needed to succeed and excel in school.

Unfortunately, nearly 75% of optom-etrists rely on the eye chart on the wall, which tests only for distance and neglects to test for near-point vision.

That’s particularly troubling when you consider that nearly 70% of all schoolwork consists of up-close work.

Students can pass the eye test chart but still lack the necessary visual skills for schoolwork.

The visual system in children takes up to three years to develop into the dominant sense. In the first year of life, taste and smell are dominant, with touch taking over for the next two years.

By age 3, the vision system develops to the point where it’s responsible for 70% of the input to the brain.

That’s why an eye test before 3 is usually not critical, Graebe said, unless obvious problems exist – crossed eyes, failure to respond to light and faces, or excessive clumsiness.

If at 3, a child trips over himself because of poor depth perception, the eyes may not be working in sync.

Symptoms of near-work problems are  often discovered when a child starts school.

Because an eye exam is required by law, Dr. Graebe recommends seeing a behavioral optometrist.

“The reason for seeing a behavioral optometrists is that most optometrists use only the eye chart because they don’t have the time,” he said.

“We will take the time to do a full exam because it is the most important test we do for children.

“A simple one-hour exam could make sure that a child has the tools to succeed at school.”

Graebe also points out that his office accepts insurance for the exam.

“Parents are happy to find out that the same insurance that covers a visit to the pediatrician will cover our visit,” he said.

Sounds like a win-win situation.