I worked in general eye care for almost 10 years before I narrowed my scope to pediatric eye exams. Pediatric patients (under 18 years old) now make up 90 percent of my patients. My favorite eye exams always were those little patients—the ones whose feet hang off the exam chair and cannot fit into the slit lamp. They will keep you fully alert and your senses keen because you will never know what they will say next or when they will try to bolt out of the exam chair.
Although some optometrists think this sounds crazy or exhausting, I couldn’t imagine a more ideal scenario. These patients radiate joy when they put on their first pair of glasses and can see properly for the first time. They are also appreciative of your time and expertise (and of course the sticker reward at the end of the exam). When treating amblyopia and we have a success, they are so proud and feel accomplished right along with you.
When is the last time that you performed an eye exam for an energetic two-year-old? Does the thought scare you, or do you refer these patients to the nearest pediatric specialist? With just a little patience and a quick response time, you, too, can perform a 2-year-old eye exam as smoothly as an adult eye exam (sometimes even easier). I include the tests I perform along with some tips to make things go easier.
Related: Examining pediatric eyes
Before the exam
To start, have an inviting area for children in the reception area. The office should have simple toys for kids to play with when they wait.
We have a wooden abacus, bead maze, and children’s books. My office allows children to take home a book from the waiting area; this receives a warm reception and offers an educational incentive. We rotate and replace the books as they leave the office.
In addition, each exam room has a box of toys tucked away for kids who need to be occupied while a family member or parent gets their eyes examined. My choice is toys you have to put together and take some time to complete, such as blocks or puzzles. This makes the visit to the eye doctor more pleasant for the patient and their little sidekicks.
When going into the reception area to greet the patient, make sure that you speak to the child first before the parent. “Hi, Little Joe Patient! I am so excited you are here today. Let’s go into this room over here.”
Be versed on all things pediatric so you can strike up a conversation, such as admiring the Ninja Turtle on his t-shirt, her sparkly sneakers, or the toy soldier in his hand.