Orthoptists are university-trained eye health professionals who specialise in the non-surgical treatment of eye and vision problems.
Orthoptists can make sure that children’s eyes and vision are developing properly. They can use tests to diagnose eye movement or vision problems and identify the best way to treat them.
Orthoptists are usually very good at working with children in a fun way. This can make eye tests and treatments easier for children to cope with.
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.
Why your child might work with an orthoptist
Orthoptists typically work with ophthalmologists, so it’s likely that your child will work with an orthoptist at the same time as an ophthalmologist. Otherwise an ophthalmologist might send your child to an orthoptist for help with diagnosing eye or vision problems.
The orthoptist might do tests to work out what your child can see and whether your child’s:
- vision development is on track for their age
- vision is reduced in one or both eyes
- eyes are working well and moving together properly
- eyes are straight and pointing in the same direction.
The orthoptist might check how well your child sees colours, distances and things around them. They might also check your child’s pupils and eye pressure.
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 visual aids or technology 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. For example, orthoptists might suggest:
- where your child should sit in the classroom to help with their learning
- how to stimulate your child’s vision if they have significant vision loss
- how to keep your child safe in the playground and at home
- how to manage eye patch treatment or get a child to wear their glasses.
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 for eye tests and examinations, but you do need a referral from an ophthalmologist, optometrist or GP to see an orthoptist for eye treatment. It’s most likely that your child’s ophthalmologist or optometrist will 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 ophthalmologist, optometrist or GP refers your child to an orthoptist, it’s a good idea to talk about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: ask why your child needs to see an orthoptist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment, or will a health professional make it for you? Does the appointment need to be in person, or can it be via telehealth?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the orthoptist?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the orthoptist cost? Check whether you can get help with costs from Medicare, private health insurance or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the orthoptist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms.
You can ask your ophthalmologist, optometrist or GP these and any other questions before your child sees 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.