Your child's vision affects her emotional development, social development, physical development, language development and educational development. Newborns will look towards a caregiver's voice and establish a "communicational" gaze. An infant will respond with looks and smiles as she begins learning interpersonal communication. A toddler will begin to figure out how to turn and move her body towards an object of interest that she sees. Between eighteen and thirty-six months, a child will begin symbolizing her feelings or intentions by first imitating what she sees. Watching mommy wave "good-bye" to daddy will translate into the child understanding that she can wave her hand to say "bye". The ability to hold onto visual images to represent intentions and emotions is a first step in comprehending that lines and squiggles on a sheet of paper represent words. Vision directly affects a wide range of areas in a developing child.
In general, testing eyesight involves determining whether someone is able to correctly identify an object of a certain size at a certain distance. For example, we can ask an older child what letter she sees at a standardized testing distance of twenty feet. If she can correctly identify a letter of a certain size, then we will have determined that she sees "20/20", for example. In children who can not recognize the written alphabet or numerals, we will ask them to perform a matching task. If a child is able to correctly match a picture of a certain size at a specific distance, then we will have determined that her vision is "20/30", for example. In infants or toddlers who can not match, we will test to see if their eyes are able to "recognize" a typical pattern known to attract visual attention. By evaluating an infant's ability to "preferentially look" at a specific pattern at a specific distance, we will be able to determine her eyesight. We utilize various child-friendly and age-specific techniques to evaluate a young child's vision. A child does not even need to be able to talk for us to determine how well she is seeing.
Your child's visual readiness for school starts developing right at birth. Because every child develops at his or her own pace, your child may reach these milestones slightly before or after other children. A lag of a week or so is not unusual, but any definite delay should be given special attention. All of the milestones listed below are preparatory for school readiness. Use this as a guide, and if you have any questions, please ask us. Your child's first full eye exam should be between the ages of 6 months and 1 year. A child's visual functioning is adult-like by this time, so checking for proper vision development before the age of 1 year is important.
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