It is important to ask the question ‘why does my child want contact lenses?’ and to have a discussion with your child about their reason or your reason for wanting them to start using contact lenses. It may be a functional issue of them not being able to see clearly with glasses such as when playing sport, or it could be a concern regarding their appearance. Once you have a clear understanding regarding your child’s reason to wear contact lenses, then adding an optometrist into the discussion will help to answer any questions you or your child may have, as well as illuminate important pros and cons of contact lenses.
The main types of contact lenses are:
- Disposable contacts: these are prescribed often for children. There are both daily and monthly disposable lenses. They are comfortable to wear and easier to care for than regular soft contacts, making them a great option if your child participates in sport activities.
- Soft contacts: these are very flexible and easy to adjust. These days soft lenses are prescribed if your child is not suitable for daily disposable contact lenses due to eye shape or prescription constraints.
- Gas permeable contacts: these are made from a more rigid material than disposable or soft lenses. Hard contact lenses are ideal for correcting certain situations such as a cornea that is misshapen.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) Contacts: are lenses that are worn while your child sleeps and are removed each morning. If you wish to read more about Orthokeratology contact lenses click here.
When is the right time for your child to wear contacts?
There is no ‘official’ age for children to start wearing contact lenses, and a number of factors are at play when discussing the possibility of contact lenses. A large consideration is whether or not the optometrist and parent/guardian thinks the child is capable of cleaning, caring for and handling their contact lenses on their own. While children tend to be quick learners, parental supervision is recommended in the beginning.
It is important to bring your child in for a comprehensive eye examination so the optometrist can assess their suitability for contact lenses. Contact lenses are great for kids that love to run around and play lots of sport, and they have the added benefit of being significantly less breakable than glasses!
Are contact lenses safe for children?
Contact lenses are as safe for children as they are for adults if worn and handled correctly. Due to the lenses being in direct contact with the eye, a common concern of parents is the fear of eye infections. Most infections however, are the result of improper handling and storage of the contact lenses.
As with adults, contacts are completely safe providing:
- The lenses are fitted correctly
- Regular check-ups are maintained
- Good hygiene is observed
- Lenses are not shared with other users
- Contacts are removed immediately if irritation occurs
School-Aged Vision: 6 to 18 Years of Age.
As children progress in school they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly. This increase of class work can place significant demands on a child’s eyes, and unfortunately the visual capabilities of some children aren’t strong enough for this visual workload.
When certain visual skills have not yet been developed or are poorly developed, learning is more challenging and stressful. Children will typically avoid reading and other near visual work, attempt to read/write but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency, or, experience discomfort, fatigue and demonstrate a short attention span.
Vision skills for success.
Vision isn’t just the ability to see clearly, it is the ability to comprehend and respond to what is seen. Basic visual skills include the ability to focus the eyes, and use both eyes together as a team by moving them effectively.
Other visual perceptual skills include:
- Recognition: being able to tell the difference between letters like “b” and “d”
- Comprehension: being able to “picture” in our mind what is happening in a story we are reading
- Retention: being able to remember and recall details of what we have read
Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:
- Visual acuity: to see clearly in the distance (whiteboard), intermediate distance (computer), and up close (reading).
- Eye focusing: to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change (e.g. looking from the whiteboard to a textbook).
- Eye tracking: to keep the eyes on a target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page, or following a moving object like a ball.
- Eye teaming: to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
- Eye-hand coordination: to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
- Visual information processing: this is the ability to organise images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand, interpret and remember what is seen.
Help them learn and grow.
Noticing the symptoms of visual problems is key to being able to assist your child to grow their visual skills to ultimately enable them better eyesight. The following are some signs that suggests that your child may be experiencing vision issues:
- Loses place while reading
- Avoids work that is close
- Rubs eyes frequently
- Reversals in reading and writing happen frequently
- Reread or omits words
- Constantly achieves below potential
With the help of eyeglasses or contact lenses, vision can be corrected. Additionally, vision therapy may be called for to enhance or help develop skills in vision. Scheduling routine comprehensive eye exams is very important to be sure that your child does not have eye problems that are interfering with learning. Give us a call on 03 9596 1238 or use our online booking system to arrange an appointment with our optometrists to discuss your child’s visual needs.
Important Things to Know About Children’s Eyes and Vision
Eye exams for children are very important to insure your child’s eyes are healthy and have no vision problems that could interfere with school performance and potentially affect your child’s safety. Early eye tests are important because children need the following visual skills that are essential for optimal learning:
- Excellent visual acuity at all distances
- Accurate and comfortable eye teaming skills
- Accurate eye movement skills
- Accurate and comfortable focusing skills
Children should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. They then should have their eyes examined at age 3 and again just before they start school, generally at about ages 5-6. School-aged children should have an eye test at least every two years, even if no vision correction is required. The frequency in which children who need spectacles or contact lenses should be examined, is as recommended by their optometrist.
Kids, Contacts and Quality of Life.
Technological advances in lens materials and easier care systems allow children to begin wearing contact lenses at younger ages. Studies have shown that contact lens wearer improves the quality of life for many children not only by correcting vision but by improving self-confidence. Contact lenses are also preferred for most sports because the provide better peripheral vision and don’t dislodge the way glasses do.
What is some practical eye care advice?
It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age. This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection. Implementing good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that promotes eye and vision health for a lifetime.
Top eye health tips
- Eat well: eating a balanced diet helps your eyes to get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best. Think fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and protein!
- Exercise and time outside: spending time outside and staying active has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a number of eye conditions as well as diabetes – a disease which can result in sight loss.
- Be sun smart: protect your child’s eyes from the sun with 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a hat when they are outdoors on sunny days.
- Be aware: If you notice any changes in your child’s vision, always get it checked out. Signs of excessive blinking, rubbing eyes and unusual head tilting or squinting are worth a visit to the optometrist.
- Take a break: with the digital age, a new concern is kids’ posture when looking at screens such as computers, tablets and mobiles. Prevent your child from holding these digital devices too close to their eyes, aim to have the distance of elbow-to-chin between your child’s eyes and a screen. To work out this distance have you child make a fist and place the fist on their chin. The reading material should be placed at their elbow. Also, taking a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds by looking at something 20 feet away is a golden rule to live by.
- Stay clean: get your child into the habit of washing their hands before touching their eyes, especially if they are wearing contact lenses.