Tips to help you prepare for your child’s visit to the optometrist.

There’s a first for everything and now, after reading the previous blog, you realize it’s time to schedule your child for an eye examination. Every child is unique and each visit is a little different but here are a few general ideas that can make the visit a good experience for all.

First, it’s a good idea to schedule your child’s appointment at a time of day when they are well rested and not hungry. We all do better after having a good sleep and with a full stomach. Depending on your child’s needs, expect that the visit will take 30 to 60 minutes in office. Many parents who have 3 or more children, find it easier to schedule no more than 2 or 3 on the same day and book the others on another day. A “marathon” office visit can be exhausting for children and parents. Families with several young children who require close supervision, often bring along the second parent or a caretaker to help out. It’s not always possible, but if you are able, schedule your own eye examination on another day without small children so your attention to the testing is undivided. We are happy to reschedule your child if they are ill on the day of the appointment. Otherwise, we prefer 24 hours’ notice for canceled appointments. Normally, appointments will be completely covered by OHIP. Periodically, non-insured additional testing will be advised and costs explained.

Most children enjoy their experience at the eye doctor’s. After all these years in practice, the process of vision still amazes me. Leading up to the appointment day, do engage your child’s curiosity and sense of wonder by talking about vision and eyes. Ask them questions like “I wonder why we have to blink?” or “Why aren’t things completely black when I close my eyes?” I love it when children ask me questions about eyes and vision. Avoid the use of negative talk, unrealistic expectations or threats such as “I hope you won’t need glasses”, or “You better be good or the doctor will get upset”. Fortunately, there is no test or procedure in an eye test that hurts. Most babies will require eye drops during their examination. Toddlers and children sometimes require them as well. Drops can sting a little when instilled and cause bright, blurred vision for a couple of hours afterward, but children generally tolerate this quite well. I advise minimizing or avoiding prior discussion about drops to avoid “anticipation anxiety” that can develop in some kids.

On the day of the appointment, bring a familiar toy or book for your child and a snack or drink if necessary. We have many fun toys and books in the children’s play area too. Be prepared to complete a history form for your child after you arrive. The waiting room experience can be quite educational for young children, requiring them to share space with the elderly, those with disabilities, and other children. Because this is a medical facility, children should be constantly supervised and not allowed to wander. Don’t hesitate to ask one of the staff if you require anything for your child or to let us know if they have special needs.

We invite parents or caretakers to be in the room during the child’s examination, unless it is an older child who prefers to be independent. Although not always possible, a child’s siblings can sometimes be a distraction during the eye test and it may be preferable for them to remain in the waiting area. Babies and young toddlers are welcome to sit on their parent’s lap. Some young children prefer to have their parent standing right next to them, holding their hand while trust is built. Some children are very quiet and shy and some are active and easily distracted, but using a variety of methods we are able to examine each one. During a toddler’s or a young child’s examination, the optometrist will ask several questions about school, hobbies, their eyes, etc. knowing that their answers may not necessarily be accurate.  This interchange is important for the optometrist to better understand the child. The optometrist is then able to tailor the examination to the maturity and knowledge level of the child. As a parent, it can be difficult to remain silent when your child answers questions incorrectly, or does not know the answer, but please allow them some time and freedom to respond the best they can. It is very helpful for the conversation to be between the optometrist and the child. Don’t worry, there will be an opportunity later in the exam to correct things!  Following the testing, the results of the examination and recommendations for care will be explained.

For many children, treatment is not required. If your child requires treatment or follow-up, the details and options will be explained and questions from you and your child are welcomed. Treatment options may include glasses, vision training, contact lenses, patching or just simply monitoring. If your child requires glasses, the selection process can begin immediately or be rescheduled. A written prescription will always be provided. We will also recommend when your child’s next examination should occur.

We look forward to your child’s visit!

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