Here's how to tell if your child needs glasses

By Pieter van Zyl
07 May 2016

Most of the eye problems suffered by children can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

Prescribing glasses is one of the ways to prevent permanent damage, the South African Optometric Association says.

“We recommend that you child goes for a full eye examination by the latest at the age of three,” says Inge Loubser, an optometrist at Mellins i.Style in Bloemfontein. Before that a paediatrician would have picked up problems such eye muscles that make an eye squint during regular check-ups.

"Even at that age the child could wear glasses held in place with rubber bands tied around their head. Should surgery be required the paediatrician or optometrist could refer the child to an eye specialist.

Loubser adds that it’s important to have the child’s eyes tested before they go to school to ensure their learning ability and development won’t be affected and to determine whether they need to wear glasses for the first while.

Read more: I can see! Baby girl gets glasses and her reaction is perfect

Eye problems could be genetic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a child will have to wear glasses if their brother, sister or parents do.

Should a child wear glasses? These are the questions parents should ask:

  •  Are they comfortable watching TV or do they have to sit close to the screen to be able to see properly?

  • If they’re outside is and for example hear the sound of birds, do they look at them and scan the area?

  • Do they often screw up their eyes or constantly keep one eye closed?

  • Do they constantly rub their eyes or do they look red and irritated?

  • Do they screw up one or both eyes when they’re tired?
  • Do their eyes turn to the in- or outside, which might indicate muscles pulling the eyes squint?
Read more: Can you see what’s inside the red dot? This optical illusion will test how good your sight is

Check your child’s eye development

The child should master the following skills at the indicated ages – they’re signs that their development is normal. At three months your child should

  • Be able to follow your face from side to side.
  • Smile and react when someone pays them attention.
  • Show interest in a face or object held nearby.

At six months your child should:

  • Reach out their arms to be picked up.
  • Be able to move both eyes together.
  • Be able to reach out to a toy or other object.

At nine months your child should:

  • Show an interest in the activities of nearby people or animals.
  • Identify small toys and be able to play with them.
  • Look where an object has fallen.

At 12 months your child should:

  • Be able to recognise people they know from the other side of a room.
  • Enjoy the interaction of playing “peek-a-boo”.
  • Identify and be able pick up small objects with their thumb and index finger.
  • If you’re not sure about any of these milestones, see a professional such as an optometrist.

Children’s glasses should be strong enough to withstand the rigours of sport, school and playtime. They should be unbreakable, flexible and as light as possible.

Make sure your child’s glasses have:

  • High impact resistance.
  • Scratch-resistant lenses.
  • An anti-glare coating that’s easy to clean.
  • A perfect fit. Glasses should sit neither too tight nor too loose on the head and not put pressure on the ears.

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