Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking My Child to the Eye Doctor

During my experience with Welcome Baby, I've learned a lot, especially through their monthly in-service meetings. At in-service, professionals come and speak to us about different areas of child development and parenting. One of the things that really grabbed my attention was the in-service about infant eye care and the InfantSEE program. Did you know that infants between 6-12 months should be receiving their first eye exam? The reason they should have this vision assessment so early is because it is at this age that they are most at risk for eye or vision disorders. Babies have what are called "windows of opportunity". A window of opportunity is a period of time in development in the brain when specific types of learning take place. Once the window of opportunity for an ability has passed, it is more difficult to accommodate new learning. The window of opportunity for proper visual development opens and closes earlier in a baby's life, or within the first year. If a vision problem is detected early on, then it is more likely that more can be done to correct it so that it doesn't negatively affect other areas of learning. InfantSEE is a public health program that provides a one-time, no cost eye and vision assessment for babies 6-12 months old.

My son is almost a year old, so I decided it was time to get his first vision check-up. I went to InfantSEE.org, clicked on "Find an InfantSEE doctor", typed in my zip code, and found 11 eye doctors within a 10 mile radius of my house. I chose a doctor, called his office and verified that he was listed with the InfantSEE program and that he would do this free assessment of my son, then made my appointment. It was so easy. And the doctor was so good with my son. It's difficult for a baby to sit still, have different lenses put over his eyes and have lights directed at them, but the doctor was an expert. He had different techniques that kept my son from getting agitated, such as squeaky toys for my son to play with and toys that he attached to the little lights he was supposed to look at. I found out that my son was a tad farsighted, but that it was normal for his age. It was a great experience and I left knowing that I had done what I could to help make sure my son's eyes were developing normally. I hope my story inspires other parents to take advantage of this window of opportunity that they have to promote healthy development in their baby.

Some interesting facts about vision development and eye care:

•According to the National PTA, one in three kids have a vision problem that interferes with learning. Children do not know that their vision is bad or different because they do not have anything to compare it to and thus cannot inform their parents that they have a vision problem.

•Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a leading cause of vision loss in 1 out of 30 children, but can be corrected if treated early.

•Vision development is most dramatic between 6-12 months of age. The American Public Health Association suggests a professional eye exam for every child at 6 months, 2 years, 4 years, and every year after they start school. A typical exam itself takes about 15-20 minutes. They test for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and eye movement ability.

•InfantSEE is a nationwide program in which doctors participate voluntarily to provide a free comprehensive eye exam for a child in his or her first year of life. You can learn more about this program and locate a doctor at http://infantsee.org/

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