I fit a lot of children with contact lenses, probably earlier than many of my colleagues. In fact, most parents are surprised when I tell them I have successfully fit children as young as six years old and trained them to insert and remove the contact lenses themselves.
There is a common misconception that children must be a certain age--most parents tell me twelve seems like the magic number. I don’t agree with an age limitation, but rather, adhere to the idea that a child is ready to wear contact lenses when he or she is mature enough to wear contact lenses.
Contact lenses are a medical device, and if used incorrectly, can cause serious damage to the eyes. In my opinion, maturity is a better indicator of successful, safe contact lens wear, and I know many adults who do not fit the bill.
I don’t tell parents when their children are mature enough. I let the patient and his or her parents make that determination, as they know the child much better than I ever could. I do, however, tell parents what I think is mature and responsible behavior that will give me and the parents peace of mind that their children will keep their eyes safe and healthy.
1. Wearing spectacles as instructed, while not breaking or losing them for an extended period of time (usually six months to a year).
2. Demonstrating good hygiene such as washing hands after using the bathroom and brushing teeth without being reminded too often.
3. Ability to demonstrate, in my office, proper insertion and removal of the contact lenses without assistance, and ability to repeat back to me the proper care instructions and wear schedule.
I believe many children make excellent contact lens wearers, often better than adults, because most children who consistently demonstrate the above behaviors are more compliant with the recommended contact lens wear schedule and cleaning regimen. At my office, I have a Guaranteed Contact Lens Success Program. If patients are having difficulties with insertion and removal, comfort, or vision with contact lenses and have been following my instructions, we will work with them until they are successful (no matter how long it takes) or a refund is given.
If you think your child is mature enough and is interested in contact lenses, ask your doctor and explain your reasons if met with resistance.