Free program checks babies' eyes

August 28, 2009 4:09:41 PM PDT
Only about 15-percent of kids have their eyes examined by the time they start school, but the first eye exam is actually recommended when they're still babies. So now, a national program is helping to spot problems early.

10-month-old Ryan Lee is too young to tell Dr. Mark Boas, www.drboas.com, in words what he sees. However, with the help of toys and gadgets, Dr. Boas can figure it out.

Esther Lee brought her son for the exam under the InfantSEE program. It's offered by the American Optometric Association and provides free assessments for babies 6 to 12 months old. That's when a baby's eyes develop the most.

"A child isn't born 20/20, 20/20 develops over time," Dr. Baos said.

To make sure that's happening properly, Dr. Boas checks the structures in Ryan's eyes to see if they're properly shaped and he plays games to see if the eyes are working together.

Stripes on paddles revealed how well Ryan focuses. Bobble toys are used to check peripheral vision and how well he sees motion. Dr. Boas says even brief glimpses of light reveal a lot.

"If the eyes aren't aligned, you lose depth perception," Dr. Boas said. Depth perception affects a child's ability to see and grasp objects, and later, to read.

Amblyopia, or lazy eye syndrome, is one of the most common eye problems among young kids, but problems found early are easier to fix.

Fortunately, Ryan got an all-clear on his exam.

Esther Lee said she didn't think it was possible to check babies eyes. She's now relieved to find out everything checked out with Ryan's eyes. "It was good to know his eyes are pretty healthy. It's one less thing to worry about," she said.

There are dozens of optometrists participating in the InfantSEE program, to find one near you, visit: www.infantsee.org

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