Michael Cole, OD, Child and Family Eye Care Center

When should I have my child’s eyes checked? How will I know if something is wrong? Won’t my child tell me if they don’t see well? The unfortunate answer is that there may not be any noticeable symptoms at all to alert parents there is a problem with the eyes or vision. So, how does one know if something is wrong? The only way to be certain is to have an evaluation by an eye care professional.

The American Optometric Association recommends that each child has a first eye exam between the ages of six months and one year. This is to ensure that all the necessary components of vision are present and functioning properly during this critical time of childhood.

Immediately after birth, the brain has not learned how to use both eyes together. Often infants’ eyes wander until they have gained the experiences necessary to make coordinated movements. Infants have yet to learn to appreciate depth or see in 3D. Until the visual system matures further, it is unable to change focus from one distance to another. Eyesight itself is very poor initially. Shapes and outlines are visible, but details are not distinct. It is important to ensure that there are no obstacles interfering with this normal development process during the first few months and years of life.

In order for the fledgling visual system to learn these things, a few conditions must be met: Both the eyes and visual pathways must be of normal health and free of disease that would affect the normal flow of information. The eyes must be focused correctly to send clear images to the brain. Finally, children must have the proper visual experiences to put the brain in the situation in which it can learn new things.

Ocular conditions that can hinder development of the visual system could be as simple as a very high or unequal glasses prescription. Occasionally, the natural lens in the eye is not formed properly, leaving behind excess fetal tissue inside the eye, or a congenital cataract that obscures vision. There are some ocular cancers that can form in the growing eye. Systemic health concerns, such as Marfan syndrome and cardiovascular disease, can have ocular manifestations detected during early eye exams. These are just a few examples of conditions that are essential to detect early so interventions can be most effective. Prompt treatment can improve vision that would otherwise be severely limited later in life. In some cases, early diagnosis may even save a life.

Early, frequent eye health and vision examinations are so important that in 2005, the American Optometric Association launched the InfantSEE program (infantsee.org) in order to help every child receive the proper vision care that they need. Doctors who participate in the InfantSEE program provide FREE vision assessments to infants between the ages of 6 and 12 months.

The InfantSEE website states: “Many eye conditions have no symptoms that can be identified by a parent or in a well-baby check-up. Early detection is the best way to ensure your child has healthy eyes and appropriate development of vision, now and in the future.

We feel so strongly about the importance of healthy vision that participating member optometrists will provide a no-cost, comprehensive infant eye and vision assessment to any baby 6 months to their first birthday, regardless of income or insurance coverage.”

InfantSEE providers can be found online using the doctor locator at the InfantSEE website. I encourage every parent to utilize the InfantSEE program and ensure their children have the necessary tools for proper vision development.

For more information regarding the InfantSEE program, or childhood vision development, please call

435-363-2980 or visit cachecfec.com.