What is an orthoptist?
Orthoptists are university-trained eye health professionals who specialise in the non-surgical treatment of eye and vision disorders.
Orthoptists can make sure that children’s eyes and vision are developing properly. They can also identify eye movement disorders and vision problems, and the best way to treat them.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like orthoptists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Seeing an orthoptist: what to expect
If you’re referred to an orthoptist, it might help to know that orthoptists are very good at working with children in a fun way. This can make eye tests and treatments easier for children to cope with.
The orthoptist might do tests to work out what your child can see and whether:
- your child’s vision development is on track for her age
- your child’s vision is reduced in one or both eyes
- your child’s eyes are working well and moving together properly
- your child has an eye muscle imbalance that’s causing one eye to turn in or out compared to the other – this is often called a squint.
The orthoptist might also look at other areas of your child’s vision, like how your child sees colours or how well your child sees at different distances. The orthoptist might also check your child’s pupils and eye pressure to get a full picture of how your child sees the world.
When the eye tests are finished, the orthoptist can let you know what your child needs – for example, glasses, an eye patch or eye exercises.
If there’s a problem with your child’s eyes or vision, orthoptists can also help you with changing the environment to make things easier for your child. For example, you might need to change the lighting in your home or think about aids to help your child with learning or schooling.
Orthoptists can often give you ideas for helping your child learn, move, play and develop other skills.
In addition to ophthalmologists, orthoptists work closely with child and family health nurses, paediatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and orientation and mobility specialists, and sometimes with neurologists.
You don’t need a GP referral to see an orthoptist, but your GP is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. Your GP or ophthalmologist can help you decide about seeing an orthoptist and help you find someone who’s right for your child.
Before going to an orthoptist
If your GP or ophthalmologist refers your child to an orthoptist, it’s a good idea to talk about the following things:
- Why you’re going: ask why your child needs to see an orthoptist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment or will the GP or another health professional make it for you?
- Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the orthoptist?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting to get an appointment– for example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the orthoptist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get help with costs from Medicare, private health insurance, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Transport and Accident Commission (TAC) or Workcover.
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the orthoptist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.
You can ask your GP or ophthalmologist these and any other questions before you go to the orthoptist. You could also ask the orthoptist’s clinic when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down your questions, so you don’t forget.
When you go to the appointment, it’s OK to ask the orthoptist to explain anything you don’t understand about your child’s eyes or vision.