At birth, a baby’s vision is blurry and unfocused. Babies can detect light, shapes, and movement, and they can just make out the face of the person holding them. A baby’s sense of sight will develop gradually over the first 6 to 8 months of life. Regular eye exams with an optometrist, which are covered by OHIP up to 19 years of age, are important to start at 6 months of age.
The Importance of Good Vision
Good vision plays an important part of an infant’s growth and development. Vision affects the development of gross motor skills in young children, as well as hand-eye coordination, learning, language, literacy and social skills.
Important Vision Milestones for babies
- From 1- 3 months, baby will look towards new sounds, watch faces, and follow moving objects
- From 3-5 months, baby will reach for objects and look at objects in their hands
- From 5-7 months, baby will look for distant objects, and hand-eye coordination is developing
- From 7-12 months, baby pays attention to books, tracks moving objects or people, and imitates smiling and waving
Signs and Symptoms of Vision Difficulties
There are a number of signs and symptoms to watch for that would suggest your child has vision difficulties.
- Look for signs of wandering eyes or crossed eyes (eyes turning in or out)
- Holding objects very close to their face or watching a screen very closely
- Rubbing, closing, or touching eyes frequently
- Watery eyes and frequent blinking
- Any redness, swelling, bumps, or crusting of the eyelids
- Difficulty following moving objects
Infant Vision Recommendations
Parents and caregivers are often unaware that their child has a vision problem because the child has no way of knowing the difference between normal vision and low vision. It is estimated that one in four school-aged children has an undetected vision problem that affects their learning (Eye See Eye Learn Program). An eye exam performed by an optometrist is the most accurate way to determine a child’s vision. The current recommendation from the Ontario Association of Optometrists is that infants have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. During the baby’s first eye exam, the optometrist will look for signs of strabismus or crossed eyes, and for signs of amblyopia or a lazy eye. The eye exam is painless, quick, and does not require the baby to recognize any letters, symbols or images.
Treatment for Babies with Low Vision
Early detection to provide vision correction is important to reduce future difficulties with learning and literacy. There are multiple ways of treating eye conditions in young children. Babies can be fitted with glasses that are worn with a strap around their head to keep the glasses in place. An option to correct a lazy eye is the use of eye patching the dominant eye. This will help the weak eye to better develop and will reduce the risk of blindness in the affected eye. Vision plays a very important role in all learning, and children will have better success in school if they are able to see accurately.
How to Find an Optometrist
In Ontario, eye exams for children are covered by OHIP up to 19 years of age. Children can have an eye exam as young as 6 months of age, however, if there is a concern before 6 months, do not hesitate to contact your health care provider or an optometrist. You do not need a referral to book an eye exam for your baby or yourself. You can find a local optometrist; through the yellow pages, the internet, or by word of mouth, and simply call to book an appointment.
Local Vision Programs and Services
Children’s Centre Thunder Bay is the lead agency for the Northern Ontario Blind-Low Vision Program. Children between the ages of 0-6 years diagnosed with low vision or blindness are eligible for family support, intervention and consultative services. Family support services are offered to parents and caregivers.
For more information about eye exams, optometrists, and the programs and services available in the Thunder Bay District please visit the links below.
For Further Information
Call the Family Health Program: (807) 625-5900
or toll-free 1-888-294-6630