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Seeing Is Believing – The Importance of Eye Exams for Infants and Toddlers

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Melanie Pickett, O.D., clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, advises parents to take advantage of early screenings for their children. As part of InfantSEE a public health program for infants in partnership with the American Optical Association and the Vision Care Institute of Johnson and Johnson, Dr. Pickett will provide a free eye exam for children up to age one.

“Often parents are unaware of any visual problems infants may have,” Dr. Pickett said. “The InfantSEE program allows us to detect vision issues at an earlier age, when they can be prevented or more easily treated.”

For children who are too young to read or talk, optometrists can employ several non-invasive tests including:

 ·         Acuity and eye movement – Because babies cannot read letters on a chart, optometrists can use methods to determine if the child can focus on an object and follow the object as it moves. Babies also can be tested to determine the distance of their vision.

 ·         Correction with glasses – During the exam, the optometrist will use a handheld object to assess the baby’s response to various targets, determining if correction with glasses is needed. While many children may be nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism, those often correct themselves as the child grows.

 ·         Eye alignment – During the exam, the doctor will cover one eye at time to determine if the child’s eye muscles are working together. Often called cross-eyes, strabismus can be detected with this test.  Babies who were diagnosed with this condition would be referred to an ophthalmologist to determine if they were a candidate for surgery to correct the condition.

 ·         Overall health – An examination of the eye, eyelids and tear ducts will be performed along with a visual field and pupil function tests using a handheld microscope. The eyes may be dilated, offering a wider more comprehensive view of the eye.

 “After the initial toddler exam, it’s recommended that children receive an eye exam every two years, and before starting school,” Dr. Pickett said. “As children age, their eyes will continue to grow and develop, so regular exams are important.”

Dr. Pickett said exams are recommended yearly for school age children.

Parents should ask their children if they notice any vision problems, or watch to see if the child has problems reading their book or seeing the whiteboard or blackboard at school.

“Sometimes reading skills could be linked to a potential vision problem,” Pickett said. 

For more information on Dr. Pickett, or the IU Department of Ophthalmology, visit

The Department of Ophthalmology has a new home in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, 1160 W. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, on the IUPUI campus. The building will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19. To also commemorate the opening, there will be a Glick Eye Institute Community Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, and health screenings, on-site art projects, building tours and other events will be offered. See for more information on the dedication and Glick Eye Institute Community Day.