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A child’s first comprehensive eye examination may be scary — they are going to a new place, meeting new adults, seeing unusual equipment, and generally just don’t know what to expect. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your child’s first eye exam is less stressful and easier for everyone.

START BY PREPARING AT HOME

Well before your child’s appointment, start by preparing at home. Begin talking about the appointment and allow your child to ask questions or express fears. Explain that the purpose of the exam is for the doctor to see how healthy your child’s eyes are and how well they work.

Invite your child to look closely at your eyes, and if you have a magnifying glass, use it to look at each other’s eyes and explain that the eye doctor will use tools to look into his or her eyes as well. Part of a typical eye examination also involves reading an eye chart. Depending on your child’s age, this chart may have pictures or letters on it. You can easily make a practice chart at home or print one from the internet. Hang your chart on the wall, and have your child sit or stand at a distance from the chart. Take turns reading the chart — read it with both eyes, with one eye covered, and with the other. Your child might also like to make his or her own eye chart with crayons and paper.

During your child’s first eye examination, you should expect dilating eye drops to be administered. Although the drops don’t hurt, this may be the most traumatic part of the appointment for your child. Demonstrate eye drops for your child by administering regular, over-the-counter eye drops to yourself, or if you use prescription eye drops, use those. Show your child that it doesn’t hurt and is nothing to be afraid of.

Finally, consider reading books with your child about the eyes, eye examinations, or wearing glasses. Such books include Arthur’s Eyes by Marc Brown, Who Wears Glasses by Ana Galen, or Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles by Jane O’Connor.

TAKE CARE IN SCHEDULING YOUR CHILD’S APPOINTMENT

When scheduling your child’s eye exam, try to choose a time when your child is usually at his or her best, and avoid scheduling just before or during your child’s nap time. This will ensure that your child is well rested for the appointment. A first eye examination may take quite a bit more time than other appointments. Allow plenty of time, and avoid scheduling other appointments or activities around the eye examination.

It is possible that your child will need to have his or her eyes dilated. Depending on your child’s age, this may interfere with school or other activities as it may take time for the dilating eye drops to wear off. As a result, if your child’s appointment is early in the day, you may need to plan for your child to take the entire day off from school, or if later in the day, your child may not be able to do homework that afternoon. Be sure to also bring a pair of sunglasses for your child to wear after the appointment as his or her eyes will be especially sensitive to sunlight if they have been dilated.

For your part, prepare a list of your child’s medications or health problems and concerns, and a list of questions or concerns that you would like to discuss with the doctor. If your child has particular questions or concerns, add these to the list as your child may forget or may be too nervous to ask these questions.

THE DAY OF THE APPOINTMENT

The day of your child’s eye examination, try to keep a relaxed and upbeat atmosphere at home. Talk about the appointment again, and if you have time, give each other another pretend eye exam to ease any continuing fears or concerns. Allow your child to select a small toy or two to take to the appointment, and also choose a book to read to your child in the waiting room if you have to wait while the eyes are dilated. You might also bring crayons or pens and paper for your child to draw while you wait. Because an eye examination may take some time, taking a snack and juice box or water bottle may also help your child cope.

When you are ready to schedule your child’s eye examination, call Silverstein Eye Centers at 816-358-3600. Our eye doctors and staff are here to answer any questions you may have about your child’s first eye examination.

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