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Pediatric Vision Screening: Important FAQs

mother and caregiver with child

Vision problems are common among children, with 19 million worldwide living with a vision disorder.1 Oftentimes, vision disorders have no noticeable symptoms,2 and as a result, children may not realize they see the world differently than others.3

Uncorrected vision disorders can impact a child’s cognitive, emotional, neurological, and physical development, potentially resulting in behavior problems, interference with early literacy and learning, and even permanent vision loss.4 Pediatric vision screening is the first line of defense for detecting potential vision problems early, when treatment is more likely to be effective.5

To help provide clarity around pediatric vision screening, we have compiled the most common questions and answers regarding this vital test.


What is a vision screening?

A vision screening is a method used to identify children who may have an eye condition that could lead to vision loss.4

What is amblyopia?

Amblyopia is the #1 cause of vision loss in U.S. children.6 It is defined as decreased vision in one or both eyes due to abnormal development of the vision system.7 The earlier the treatment, the more likely it will be successful.5 If left untreated, the child may become blind in the amblyopic eye.8

Why does my child need a vision screening?

A vision screening can help detect potential eye problems at an early age when treatment is most effective.4

When should my child receive a vision screening?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive an instrument-based vision screening at 12 months of age and chart-based testing when the child can read a visual acuity chart (typically around 3-5 years old).9

What is an instrument-based vision screener?

An instrument-based vision screener, such as the Welch Allyn® Spot® Vision Screener, can easily and quickly help detect vision conditions that may cause decreased vision or amblyopia.9

Physician screening child and parent in office with Spot Vision Screener
Screen view of Spot Vision Screener with child in background
Spot Vision screener screening little girl in office

Is it easy to receive an instrument-based vision screening?

An instrument-based vision screener takes an image of the eyes to measure refractive error and ocular misalignments and can be as quick and easy as taking a photo with a digital camera.6, 9

What types of vision disorders does an instrument-based vision screener detect?

An instrument-based vision screener can help detect common vision-threatening conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, blurred vision, unequal refractive power, eye misalignment, and unequal pupil size.10

Won’t I notice something wrong with my child’s vision?

Children may not realize they see the world differently than others and oftentimes vision disorders have no noticeable symptoms.3

What is the difference between a vision screening and a comprehensive eye examination?

A vision screening can help detect a vision problem, but a comprehensive dilated eye exam by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) is necessary for diagnosis.

Do my child’s pupils need to be dilated for a vision screening?

No, dilation drops are not necessary for a vision screening.11

What happens if my child fails their vision screening?

Your child will be referred to an eye doctor for further examination. It is imperative that parents follow through with this recommendation as only an eye doctor can formally diagnose and treat vision disorders.

Does my child still need a comprehensive eye exam if they pass the vision screening?

Yes, periodic comprehensive eye exams are key to evaluating overall eye heath. During the exam, various tests are performed to assess visual acuity, depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement.12 Eye drops are used to dilate the pupil, enabling a more thorough investigation of the eye.

Where can my child receive a vision screening?

Pediatricians and family doctors often conduct vision screenings during well-child visits. In addition, vision screenings can be performed in schools by school nurses or at community-based events by trained laypersons.

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1. Children’s Eye Foundation. Accessed January 2, 2019.

2. Children’s Eye Foundation. A Practical Guide for Primary Care Physicians: Instrument-Based Vision Screening.

3. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Children’s Vision Screening. Accessed January 2, 2019.Eyes On Learning. Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed January 22, 2019.

5. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Understanding Vision Screenings and Eye Examinations. Accessed January 3, 2019.

6. Children’s Eye Foundation. Accessed January 2, 2019.

7. Children’s Eye Foundation. You Can Stop Preventable Vision Loss. Accessed January 22, 2019.

8. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Our Vision for Children’s Vision: A National Call to Action for the Advancement of Children’s Vision and Eye Health. Accessed January 2, 2019.

9. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Pediatric Vision Screening: Guidelines for Effective and Efficient Vision Screening in Children.

10. Welch Allyn. Spot Vision Screener. Accessed January 3, 2019.

12. Children’s Eye Foundation. See More Today. Accessed January 22, 2019.

13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health. Accessed January 3, 2019.