Eye Exams: Preparing For A Visit With A Special Needs Child

23 January 2015
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog


A visit to the optometrist can be scary and stressful for a child, especially those with special needs. Learning how to find the right optometrist for your child's specific needs, along with preparing beforehand, can help relieve some potential stress.

Choose the Right Optometrist

Your pediatrician or therapist is the best place to go for an optometry referral. If this isn't possible, look for an optometrist that has experience working with children with special needs. You must interview the optometrist to make sure they are a good fit for your child. Questions to ask include:

  • Do you have experience working with my child's specific needs? For example, if your child is nonverbal, you need an optometrist that has the knowledge and skills to properly evaluate a child that can't readily communicate.

  • Are alternative examinations possible? Children with specific sensitivities, especially those on the autism spectrum, can't tolerate some eye tests. For example, the glaucoma tonometry test, or air puff test, can be especially frightening and irritating. Make sure the optometrist is willing to to skip the test or use alternative visual-only testing methods.

  • How long is the standard appointment? You can't rush through an appointment with a special needs child. Make sure appointments are booked for a minimum of two hours.

  • What services are offered? Children with special needs often have further vision issues beyond the standard poor vision. These can include improper tracking, poor binocular vision, and visual motor integration disorders, to name a few. Choosing an optometrist that can diagnose these issues and implement a therapy and treatment plan is vital.

Make Note of Important Details

A vision history and health form will likely appear in the mail before the appointment. If it doesn't, you will need to fill one out at the office. To save time and stress for your child, it's best to pick up this form in advance and fill it out before you arrive.

You will need to include detailed background information. Make note of your child's specific disabilities and sensitivities, including information on premature birth history, known motor skill deficits, and medications your child must take.

This is also a chance to mention anything you have noticed, such as mismatched eye movements or trouble focusing on a single object. Providing as much information as possible allows an optometrist like those at Lloyd Mall Eye Care to focus on the parts of the exam that are most pressing for your child, which is important if the exam must be cut short due to the stress on your child.

Eye appointments are usually infrequent compared to other medical visits, so the most difficult hurdle will be preparing your child for the new sights, sounds and sensations. If possible, visit the office and meet the doctor with your child prior to the appointment. Schedule your appointment for a time of day when your child is normally alert and not overly-tired.