How to tell if your kid might need glasses, according to an optometrist.

Thanks to our brand partner, Specsavers

Greeshma Patel was seven years old when she began wearing glasses. 

"I was in denial about needing them," the qualified optometrist tells Mamamia. "So I'd lie during my eye tests and try to memorise the letters because back then, the letters in the test were all the same. I thought my optometrist was a magician because he just always knew I wasn't telling the truth."

The experience is what sparked her interest in optometry, and she has been in the field for over 20 years as a qualified optometrist in the heart of Sydney at Specsavers.

One of the most rewarding aspects of her job, she says, is the opportunity to help parents determine if their children need glasses. 

"It really is so important, especially from a young age, because your children tend not to know what they should and shouldn't be seeing," Patel tells Mamamia.

"Poor vision may impact learning, depth perception, hand-eye coordination, and in the long term, if an eye doesn't develop good vision, it may hold you back from certain occupations so it is very important to determine if what you are seeing is normal, and to optimise what you can see. We do so much with our eyes from driving to playing sports, and if you know your eyes are performing at their best, you've often got the advantage." 

There's no hard and fast rule to recognise if your child needs glasses, so a yearly check-up is your safest bet to ensure they have optimal eyesight.

"It's super difficult," she says. "Because children can't really articulate well, so before starting preschool or kindergarten, it's a good time to make sure your child's vision is okay."

However, Patel advises parents to watch out for common behaviours, or complaints from their child, including: 

  • Complaining of itchy eyes.
  • Mentioning their eyes feel gritty or like they are burning after a long day.
  • Trouble with concentration. 
  • Being unable to articulate words whilst reading. 
  • Sitting too close to the TV. 
  • Getting too close to a book while reading.

Children could need glasses for all sorts of reasons. They could suffer from long-sightedness, short-sightedness, astigmatism, or amblyopia. 


And Patel says that parents should follow the general rule of "the younger, the better" when it comes to bringing their children in to get their eyes checked. 

"It's really useful to start children coming in for eye test appointments at an early age so they get familiar with the process and instil healthy habits," she explains. "The optometrists will give them some practical tips and advice on how to look after their eyes while using screens. Essentially, they'll get good advice from their optometrist about what's working for their eyes and what is not, which will help form healthy vision habits."

She suggests that they should also have their eyes checked at least every two years. However, if you notice your child outgrowing their glasses quickly, an optometrist might recommend more frequent check-ups, either every year or every six months.

Patel explains that eye tests are more interactive than they ever have been for kids.

"An eye test is about 20 minutes or so," she says. "And the earlier you get your child in for the first time, the easier it will be for them to think of this as a necessary, enjoyable experience."

While old eye tests used to depend on reliability of a child's response to indicate their needs, Patel mentions that technology has advanced to the point where it's no longer a daunting experience for them.

The options are also limitless for children who get to choose glasses that represent who they are – but that's not the only perk.

"Specsavers is accessible for everyone, we include a digital retinal photo and 3D OCT scan at no extra charge which is important because that is hospital-grade technology that is available to everyone," she says. "That's useful because it can pick up on eye diseases and track them over time."


"We also have glasses that suit every budget and we have a really cool kids range," she continues. "So no one needs to be that kid that doesn't feel good in their glasses. We've got glow-in-the-dark frames, character frames, and designer frames. They're ALL affordable, another option to think about is contact lenses."

Overall, Patel acknowledges that it can be intimidating for a child to undergo their first eye check-up, but it's crucial to remember that children's eyes are sensitive and require proper care. Currently, the statistics show nearly 30 per cent of children have never had an eye test.

The health professional tells Mamamia that myopia (also known as short-sightedness) is a major concern in children which often develops from sitting too close to the TV, books, or iPads, especially with Aussie kids currently spending 2.5 times the recommended amount of time on screens, according to Specsavers research. 

"In Australia and New Zealand, we're seeing almost 30 per cent of kids are diagnosed with it every year," she says. "But it's not just a national concern, it's a global concern and it is really worrying because the implications on eye health are quite high."

"This is why people should get their eyes checked," she says. "Especially children."

The more kids see, the more they learn. To book your child's eye test, visit your local Specsavers store or book online. 

This information is general in nature and does not replace tailored advice for your child from a healthcare professional. As with any medical condition, always seek health advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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