Rochelle Humes and optometrist Dr Josie on child eye tests

I’m Rochelle Humes and I’m working with Specsavers to highlight the importance of regular eye tests for children. As a mum and a glasses wearer I was shocked to learn that as many as one in four children under 18 have never had their eyes examined. So I talked to Specsavers optometrist, Dr Josie, Simon and his daughter Clara, to find out why it’s so important to make eye tests part of your child’s regular health check-up.

So Josie, what is the age when children should first come for an eye test?
From the age of three and before the age of eight, so there’s a really good window of opportunity between three and five to really help correct problems, particularly lazy eye, the amblyopias and the short-sightedness sometimes as well.

Simon, what made you first take your children in for an eye test?
My wife and I had noticed that a number of children in Clara’s class were starting to wear glasses, so we thought now would be a good time to get her eyes checked.

Was the children’s sight test exactly what you thought it would be?
No, it wasn’t. I was a little bit apprehensive and I think Clara was as well. You know, there’s a lot going on, machines, it is quite interactive, so it’s like going to some – maybe somewhere like the Science Museum, where you actually get to do something.

So Simon, were you surprised that actually it’s quite a fun morning, isn’t it, for the family?
Yes, it was, yes, it was great but it was very quick as well. It didn’t last very long. But we enjoyed it, didn’t we, Clara.

If you had to say one bit of the eye test, what would have been your favourite bit this morning?
Clara: They showed these things.

And what could you see when you were looking through things?
Clara: A green box and a red box.

And did you read any letters?
Clara: Yes.

How many letters could you read?
Clara: All of them.

Josie: Do you find it a lot more difficult to perform the test on a child than you do an adult?
I don’t. There’s a lot of things we do in a children’s sight test that actually we do in an adult sight test, but we’ve got to try and adapt it to work for children because obviously they’re that much smaller and it all looks a bit intimidating. So it’s actually quite fun actually just adapting your own style for that type of thing.

Rochelle: I took my little girl in for an eye test, and she loved it. You think that our little ones would go, oh-h-h, I’m not sure, you know, because it’s a big thing, going and sitting on the chair, the chair is very large, my daughter said she felt like she was on the Voice, she liked the – she was looking for a button to spin the chair around! But yes, but it is actually is really, really enjoyable.
So I’m pleased you had a lovely time Clara.

I think with eye tests we had read that you can pick up quite a lot of things not just necessarily to do with the eyes. So if anything, it meant that we were getting a good bill of health.

Josie: I think with children’s eye tests, particularly you’re looking to check for the health as much as you’re looking to check for just how well their eyes have developed. It’s very important to know that their eyes are developing well.

What signs should parents be looking out for?
Josie: It’s interesting you should say about signs. Sometimes a child can have a lazy eye and both eyes can look perfectly straight. But other signs would be clumsiness or not taking interest in the television perhaps as much as you’d expect that they would do. I think from a health point of view occasionally it’s always very good to have a look at photographs and look for head tilts and this type of thing. If you look at a school photo and your child might have the only head perhaps at a funny angle. That’s something that’s always worth checking as well, perhaps they’re just not participating with their friends in some of the similar sports. It might just be signs that they just can’t see things very clearly, so it’s just to look out for those things that you might think might just be part of growing up, actually might just be maybe they just can’t see it properly and of course they might not even realise that. It’s very easy to sometimes miss these things, it can be difficult, and I think that’s why we’d recommend everybody to have an eye test as early as they can, if you like.

So Josie, tell us a little bit about the free screening programme at schools?
The free screening programme is something that Specsavers have sponsored. It’s a web-based application. All schools can access it and all children up to the age of 18 can take advantage of it. It really allows the school to very quickly assess the vision of the left and right eye of every student, and if there’s any problems can very quickly make an appointment to have a free sight test at the local optician’s.

So I’m sure that will inspire those of you with children to book an eye test today. As Simon and Clara said, there’s nothing to be scared of. I’ve certainly learnt a great deal.

Rochelle Humes presents on ITV’s This Morning.

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