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It’s important for parents to focus on their child’s vision. A child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. So when a child’s vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities can suffer. A school vision or pediatrician's screening is not a substitute for a thorough eye examination.

Early identification of a child’s vision problem can be crucial since children are often more responsive to treatment when they are diagnosed early. Infants should have their first comprehensive eye assessment before twelve months of age. This examination is intended to complement the routine wellness care that a baby receives at the pediatrician’s office by broadening the review of an infant’s eye health and vision status.

Additional eye examinations are recommended at age three, and just before entering kindergarten. Since vision changes can occur without you or your child noticing, eye exams for school-age children are recommended every two years for children who do not wear eyeglasses or have other vision problems. Eye examinations for children who wear glasses are recommended every year, so any changes in vision can be corrected. For children with other vision problems, follow your eye doctor’s advice about how often your child needs to be seen.

If basic vision skills are lacking or not functioning properly, your child will have to work harder to learn. This can lead to headaches, fatigue, eyestrain, and other problems. The following basic vision skills are needed for school and extra-curricular activities:

  • Near vision: the ability to see clearly and comfortably at 10-13 inches
  • Distance vision: the ability to see clearly and comfortably beyond arm's reach
  • Binocular coordination: the ability to use both eyes together
  • Eye movement skills: the ability to aim the eyes accurately, move them smoothly across a page and shift them quickly and accurately from one object to another
  • Focusing skills: the ability to keep both eyes accurately focused at the proper distance to see clearly and to change focus quickly
  • Peripheral awareness: the ability to be aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead
  • Eye/hand coordination: the ability to use the eyes and hands together


As a parent, be alert for symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision or visual processing problem. Be sure to tell your optometrist if your child frequently:

  • Loses their place while reading
  • Avoids close work
  • Holds reading material closer than normal
  • Rubs their eyes
  • Complains of headaches, eyestrain, double vision or blurred vision
  • Turns or tilts their head to favor one eye over the other
  • Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • Uses a finger to maintain their place when reading
  • Omits or confuses small words when reading
  • Consistently performs below potential


Do you have a child who is having problems with learning, reading and behavior or who has been diagnosed with LD, learning disabilities, developmental delays, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (attention deficit hyperactive disorder, adhd, AD/HD, hyperactive), dyslexia or autism? Read this article to help you decide how choose an eye doctor. Click here to view the article.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Smithson, please contact our Alexandria or Reston office.