Pay Attention to Your Baby’s Eye Health
Our children’s eyes open to us and we look to them for signs of recognition, connection, and understanding. Those eyes serve the same role for the children, not only helping them bond to us, but also helping them learn about the world around them.
While the majority of parents are aware of the importance of eyesight to our children’s development, when it comes to checking out the health of our children’s eyes, most parents are surprisingly lacking.
When to Begin
The American Optometric Association recommends that parents begin receiving professional eye care for their infants at around 6 months of age, starting with a comprehensive vision assessment. However, national statistics show that only 13 percent of mothers with children younger than 2 years take their babies to see an optometrist for a regular check-up. I’m in that group of parents who did not.
Dr. Denise Roddy, a Tulsa-based optometrist with 23 years of experience and the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians’ 2012 Doctor of Year, emphasizes the connection between eye health and child development. “Eighty percent of your child’s learning goes through his or her visual processing,” she said. “The majority of children with reading difficulties have vision issues as well.”
To encourage more parents to access vision assessments for their children, Dr. Roddy, as well as more than 20 other Tulsa-area optometrists, offer free, one-time comprehensive eye exams to infants ages 6 months and older through the InfantSEE public health program.
InfantSEE was launched nationwide in 2005 by the American Optometric Association (AOA) with support from former President Jimmy Carter who has a granddaughter who was diagnosed and treated as a toddler for amblyopia, often referred to as lazy eye. Amblyopia affects approximately 1 in 30 children and is a leading cause of vision loss in people younger than 45. A 2005 press release from AOA announcing the InfantSEE program noted that President Carter also has a grandson whose amblyopia was not identified until grade school and may never be fully corrected.
Dr. Roddy, who has been offering InfantSEE services since early 2006, says, “We offer it as a way of early detection of vision issues that may retard a baby’s development in learning.” She adds, “An InfantSEE exam takes about 20 – 30 minutes at most, and most infants like the toys and handheld instruments we use for the exam.”
Oklahoma optometrists have named April 16 through April 21, 2012 as InfantSEE week to bring greater awareness to the availability of the free infant eye assessments.
According to the AOA, one in every 10 children is at risk from undiagnosed eye and vision problems. Setting up early vision assessments for our children with doctors of optometry is a key preventative strategy parents can and should take.
Dr. Roddy said that an infant eye exam can make a big difference in a child’s life, especially if problems are addressed early. She recalled one child who came in with his great-grandparents, who were patients of hers. “Hunter came for an InfantSEE exam with his great-grandparents,” she said. “He was extremely far sighted in both eyes and was developing a crossed eye. He was referred for surgery of the eye muscles and corrected with full time glasses for farsightedness.” Success!
With early eye screenings, vision disorders are detected and corrected. Long moments staring into your baby’s beautiful eyes remain.
April 16 – 21 is InfantSEE week. Infant eye exams are offered at no-cost to the clients. Go to InfantSEE.org and use the doctor locator link to find the optometrist nearest you.