All babies born in Somerset have their eyes checked from any obvious physical problems within 72 hours of birth and between 6 and 8 weeks old. But, sometimes children will develop visual problems later.

You may be asked if you have concern about your child’s eyesight as part of their 1-year and 2.5-year development review with the health visitor.  Your child’s eyes will be examined soon after they start school by the Orthoptic team. This is called vision screening and it checks for reduced vision in one or both eyes. The aim is to detect any problems early so that treatment can be given if needed.

As visual problems may develop over time, it is important to arrange for eye tests at an optician once a year. Free NHS sight tests are available at opticians for children under 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.

Signs that your child may be having problems with their vision

You can find information about the signs of vision loss for babies or toddlers in the personal child health record (red book) and which include:

  • not being able to gain their attention with an interesting object or not following the object with their eyes as it moves
  • struggling to see small objects (tiny bits of food, crumbs, bits of fluff)
  • not reaching for toys/objects close to them
  • holding things very close
  • doesn’t recognise you across a room
  • bumps into things
  • is unusually clumsy

Some children, following a visit to an optician, may be diagnosed as being long- or short-sighted and may be prescribed with glasses that can correct their vision. This will mean they can continue to reach all age appropriate milestones without further support around their vision. Some vision problems like squints, lazy eye, colour blindness can mean some support is required to continue their development and progress at school. Please follow the guidance on our Somerset’s Graduated Response Tool page.

It is important to identify any problems as early as possible so that action can be taken to help the child.

In older children, signs of a possible eye problem can include:

  • their eyes not pointing in the same direction
  • complaining of headaches or eye strain
  • problems reading – for example, they may need to hold books close to their face and they may lose their place regularly
  • problems with hand-eye co-ordination – for example, they may struggle to play ball games
  • not being able to read from a display/board
  • regular trips or falls in familiar environments
  • sensitivity to light
  • being unusually clumsy
  • regularly rubbing their eyes
  • sitting very close to the TV

What you should do if you think your child is struggling

If you have concerns about your child’s vision before starting school, we advise that you speak to your health visitor – if the child is under 5 – or go to an optician.

Children can have an eyesight test at any age. They do not need to be able to read, or even speak. The optician can refer your child to the local Eye clinic if a problem is identified. Regular sight tests are particularly important if there’s a history of childhood eye problems, such as squint or lazy eye, in your family.

You should contact your GP surgery if your child has any of the following:

  • Eye infection
  • Styes / cysts (lumps and bumps of their eyelids)
  • Continuing weeping eyes

For eye injuries, you can attend your local urgent treatment centre or, if serious, an accident and emergency department.

It is also a good idea to discuss any problems with your child’s teacher. Teachers have been told about the signs to look out for if they suspect a child is struggling with their vision and to contact the child’s parents and agree on a plan to help.

Vision Support Team

The Vision Support Team is part of Somerset Council’s SEND and Inclusion service and includes:

  • Qualified Teachers of Visual Impairment (QTVI)
  • Specialist Support Advisors
  • Habilitation Specialists

The service works closely with Ophthalmologists, Orthoptists, Sensory Loss colleagues, Therapists, Educational Psychologists and Voluntary Agencies such as RNIB, Guide Dogs and Somerset Sight.

The team can visit the child or young person in their homes, pre-school settings, schools and colleges. They assess your child’s functional vision and can then provide support with information about:

  • the child or young person’s visual condition and how this may impact their learning
  • strategies to support access to learning and the curriculum
  • adaptations and equipment
  • adaptations for the environment

They can also offer direct support, teaching, training and advice to equip the child with necessary skills for independence in:

  • living skills
  • mobility
  • orientation

Last reviewed: April 2, 2024 by Jenny

Next review due: October 2, 2024

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