Optometrists may be reluctant to take on infants and toddlers as patients because they think that examining and treating these youngest of patients require special skills.
"Everyone has the knowledge and skill sets to work with children, but infants and very young children are still an underserved population in optometry because many people are just not comfortable seeing them," said Dr. Lyon, chief of Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Services, Indiana University School of Optometry, Bloomington.
"After you have done it once or twice, you realize that it is just as easy as dealing with a 10-year-old's myopia with –3 D glasses. If you can do that, you can do an infant eye exam," he continued.
"More parents are showing up at my office asking about InfantSEE," he said. "They're concerned about their child's vision, and want to know that their child is developing typically."
Go slow in examinations
Dealing successfully with infants and toddlers depends on making a good first impression-with both the patient and the parent.
"As soon as you walk in the door, you're on display," Dr. Lyon cautioned. "That parent is looking at you and thinking, 'What is he going to do to my child?' They have no idea what to expect."
He said that a common mistake optometrists sometimes make when dealing with young children is beginning the examination too quickly. "When we work with adults, we can walk in, start shining lights, and putting drops in because they know what to expect," Dr. Lyon said. "Infants and toddlers do not know what to expect. This is all new, and therefore, you have to take your time and observe. If the child is playing with their favorite toy, leave them alone until you really need them."
The goal is to have the child and parent as relaxed as possible when the examination begins. This makes the process as easy as possible on the child, the parent, and the optometrist as well.
A relaxed parent and child also will help you minimize frustration. "Parents will pick up on your frustration very quickly, and a wall will come up and make your exam procedure more difficult," he said. "If you start feeling frustration, do something to distract the child, such as bringing out a new toy. If the child starts screaming or crying, step away. Do something else until the child calms down."