Optometrist talks importance of treating kids

A UMSL optometry student examines a child's eyes during a Mobile Eye Center visit to a St. Louis-area school in this 2010 file shot. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Treating children isn’t always easy for optometrists. One of the most difficult aspects of the job is getting children to the office for a visit, according to the June issue of EyeCare Professional Magazine. Dr. Aaron Franzel, chief of binocular vision and pediatric services at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, told the magazine that parents tend to delay their child’s first eye exam due to confusion or misconceptions on how old the child should be.

“There will be educated parents who know they have risk factors for certain conditions, but they’re convinced or have been told that we can’t really measure visual skills until (children) know their letters and are confident,” Franzel said in the EyeCare Professional Magazine article. “I’m not exactly sure where that comes from, but it’s a difficult thing to overcome because we hear it all the time.”

In a conversation with UMSL Daily, Franzel discussed the appropriate age when a child should have his or her first eye exam. He pointed out that the American Optometric Association recommends an initial checkup at 6 months old, pariticular if visual risk factors are present. Both AOA and the InfantSEE program have laid out important vision development milestones parents can watch for in their child’s first year of life (AOA goes farther by outlining what to watch out for throughout a person’s entire life).

Franzel also discussed the usefulness of a play area in the pediatric clinic he manages on campus. He said in the magazine article that the area does more than entertain the children. Observing the children at play, he said, could provide valuable information for the eye exam.

“It really gives us a pretty good idea as to what they like to do, what they avoid, some of their visual habits, how does their head tilt or turn,” he told EyeCare Professional. “All of these things can be cues for us to look at specific things that may or may not have been picked up by the parent.”

Visit the EyeCare Professional Magazine website to read the entire article featuring Franzel. Call 314-516-5131 for more information about the pediatric offerings of the University Eye Center at UMSL.


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