Both my husband and I are speccy wearers so we both know the drill for having an eye test. Rock up at the opticians, look at some far away letters and tell them whether they are better or worse when viewed through different lenses. But how on earth do you do an eye test for a child? One who’s just started school and isn’t 100% at recognising all the letters of the alphabet when they’re right in front of him, let alone when they’re viewed from across the room with one eye covered.
For us, first came the school vision screening. All new starters have an eye test such as I’ve described above, one eye covered, reading letters on a card across the room. Through this Little Robot was found to have below average sight and we were invited to attend another test at the hospital, this was a repeat of the first screening. In Little Robots case, it also included a colour vision check as I told them I’d noticed him mixing up colours and colour blindness runs in the family.
I was present during the repeat screening and I did worry that he was getting letters wrong not because he couldn’t see them, but simply because he’s only 4 and still learning them. For example, he often mixes up b and d when reading a book. However once the second screening test was complete and the result agreed with the first, below average sight in both eyes, we were booked for an eye test to determine if glasses were needed and what the prescription would be. So in our experience eyesight in children, is checked, checked and checked again before anything’s prescribed. For young children, this eye test requires eye drops to dilate the pupil. We were given drops to take home and told to give them an hour before his next appointment.
Thankfully his appointment was booked during the Easter holidays so he wouldn’t have to struggle through a day at school after eye drops that make everything seem too bright and blurry. Of course he didn’t like us giving him eye drops, but he was soon smiling again when I pulled out a surprise, post-eye drops Kinder egg. I hoped we’d managed to do it correctly, I only got one tiny drop in each eye and he cried (the leaflet says they can sting!) immediately after so I worried it wouldn’t work. I soon discovered the tiny bit that went in was enough as we left the house to go to his appointment and he screwed up his face in the bright sunshine. I found his sunglasses in the car, tucked at the bottom of a pocket since last summer, and he wore those as I drove.
For the actual eye test, I was pleased to see there were no letters involved. The optician looked through an ophthalmoscope and held little lenses in front of Little Robots eyes and that was it! All Little Robot had to do was sit still on my lap. It’s like that bit at the optician where they stick different lenses in front of you and ask if the letters are better or worse. Except little children might not understand what they’re on about so, with the drops and an ophthalmoscope, there’s no need to look at letters nor ask the person being tested. With this test, we found Little Robot has astigmatism and needs glasses. Being the superhero fan that he is, he was very pleased when we went to a high street opticians the next day and found Spider-Man glasses. They’ll be ready soon, hopefully he’ll want to wear them and get used to them quickly.