We realised that there was little information available on what to expect during an eye test for kids in Singapore. I mean we know about the usual process when you hit primary school but what if your child under the age of 5 needs a test? Going into the unknown can be very scary for the parents especially if you don’t have any info to prep your child with. I had to google for videos of test conducted in the US and prep him based on that. While at the same time hoping that our processes were similar and as child friendly.
The need for an eye test/ check up came about because Jah’s Childcare teachers noticed that he was looking at things/tv at an angle. We decided to observe him at home and found him blinking or squinting more at the end of the day. With some prompting from us, he was also able to tell us that his right eye was hurting.
We decided to schedule an appointment at the National Eye Centre Pediatric Dept in 5 day’s time (the next avail date was also in a month) So try to book early if you detect a problem.
We arrived at the centre at 8.25am (5 minutes early). We registered and waited outside 1 of the consultation rooms. The waiting area had two small kids table and no other kids toys or distractions. (We were told this process could take up to 3-4 hours) so thankfully we came armed with our own ‘ammunition’.
8.40am – A nurse proceeded to do a short test with Jah using a machine. The kind where you place your chin on a spot and lean forward to look into the two holes? Haha sorry I don’t know what it’s called but I think you get the gist. The difference between the adult version and the kids one is that they are watching Barney through the two holes while adults are usually told to focus on dots or something? It took 3 minutes and we were told to wait outside another room. Jah thought we were done for the day and asked for his reward. We had to explain there was one more ‘doctor’.
9am – The Optometrist calls us into her office and does a series of sight test with Jah. Wearing sunglasses that were black out in either eye and getting him to call out objects (house, fish, apple) instead of our usual A,B,C. At this point, Jah was starting to show signs that he could not see the smaller items with his right eye. Note that the child may start to laugh it off, attempt to remove the glasses, peek or ask to leave. We realised that this happened because he wanted very much to get the answers right but when he couldn’t he tried to work around it. This probably only happens especially the peeking part if the child can’t see, so do try your best to be patient. I know it can be very frustrating and stressful for the parents. I think at this point if your kid’s eyes have no issue you will probably be allowed to go off.
9.30am – We were told that Jah had to have his eyes dilated so that they could get an accurate reading of his ‘power/ degree’ and they would also take the chance to look into the back of his eyes at the retina. 3 different drops for the first session, 2 different drops 5 minutes later and 1 drop 5 minutes after that. The nurse was very patient and even allowed me to do the drops for Jah. Oh he struggled and yes he cried but it definitely helped that I was doing it so I knew when to exert force to restrain him and when to just go ahead with it.
1020am – We saw another optometrist who repeated the previous sight test but with lens in varying degrees. This test would only end when the child can finally see the smallest item with both eyes. At this stage, Jah was losing patience and probably hating not being able to get the answers right. The ammunition started coming out fast and furious – chocs eggs and new car toys. Every trick in the bag and we barely completed it.
11am – Finally we got to see the ophthalmologist who did a few test of her own (shining light into his eyes etc). Yes by then Jah was no longer willing to sit down for any more tests. We were told that he had astigmatism which was likely hereditary and it was higher in the right eye. She suggested that we got him to wear specs as the early intervention would prevent it from developing into lazy eye in a couple of years.
I had done abit of my own research prior to the test and learnt that the eyes muscles were fully developed by 8 years and therefore the risk of lazy eye is there till the age of 8. Therefore it is crucial that we don’t let the muscle in the weaker eye continue to lose power now. Once a person hits 8 and doesn’t have a lazy eye condition then it is unlikely to happen.
It truly pains us that we have to put Jah in specs at the age of 3. But I tell myself it is this or the potential of very bad or no vision in one eye. This apparently is something that can happen if the problem exist and is left undetected until a much later age (usually 6-7 years old) when they are sent for sch eye test.
So yes I am now an advocate for getting your kid’s eyes checked early. They should be checked between the ages of 3-4 when they are able articulate during the test and also when early intervention can have the most impact. I know it is also an age where an eye test might be a stressful process for the whole family but I think it is worth it if it keeps their eyes healthy.
In fact we have since collected Jah’s glasses and we have seen a vast improvement in his mood and the way he communicates with us. It’s almost as if he can now focus on everything else because he doesn’t have to focus all his energy on trying to figure out his blurry vision. I tried looking through his glasses and it was blur for me. I had no idea my child was putting up with such blurry vision before this. Coincidentally it has helped to ease up his headache from the head injury, probably putting less strain on his eyes and brain.
So parents if you spot your child blinking excessively, squinting, complaining of eye pain, I would say err on the side of caution. I’m truly glad I did!
P.S – Stay tuned for our experience
on trying to get Jah’s glasses made