Functional assessments for children

Why does my child need a functional vision assessment?

All children who come to Vision Australia will already have had contact with an eye doctor. The doctor will have provided a diagnosis and prognosis for the eye condition.

Often parents find this doctor's visit quite stressful. They may have many unanswered questions and want practical information as to the implications any visual loss might have for education and life skills.

A functional vision assessment will give parents this practical information on vision. It will look at how well a child is using their vision in everyday life. After the vision assessment there will be time for parents to ask questions and raise issues of concern.

How does a functional assessment differ from an eye doctor’s assessment?

The functional assessment does not require the child to have any eye drops and we do not prescribe glasses. It will not give you a diagnosis of the child's eye condition. We rely on the reports given by your eye doctor for that information.

What information can a functional visual assessment provide?

The assessment will help you understand what your child can see in everyday life.

The assessment will:

  • Give you as accurately as possible a visual acuity reading for both near and distance and explain the readings.
  • Help to explain how your child is functioning with their level of vision.
  • Provide strategies and ideas on how to make the best use of available vision or to make adaptations to make the visual world easier to understand.
  • Provide a comparison of levels of vision to other children of the same age.
  • Look at other areas of vision such as depth perception and colour vision where appropriate.
  • Provide information as to how vision is impacting on your child’s mobility and play skills.
  • Provide ideas about how your child will best learn at school and what aids might be appropriate for schooling.

What about vision assessments prior to starting school?

In addition to the information listed above, vision assessments prior to starting school will include:

  • Advice to the school on creating a safe environment and to the class teacher on adapting the classroom to your child’s needs.
  • Advice on the best methods for learning, such as whether to use large print, Braille, or other aids such as magnifiers. It will also provide the basis for your child's school to apply for funding for extra classroom help or modifications.

Schools often request that these assessments are completed by September of the year prior to starting school so they can apply for the appropriate funding and to allow time for any modifications to the school environment to be carried out.

What happens at the assessment?

A mutually convenient time is made for the assessment. Most assessments take at least an hour as many aspects of vision are covered.

A variety of methods will be used to determine your child’s visual functioning. For example, balls of different sizes may be rolled in front of your child to determine the smallest ball they can detect.

The image below shows balls that are used to check vision

Different coloured and sized balls used for vision tests

Some children are tested by showing them different sized stripes and watching their reactions. If they look towards stripes of a certain width it gives an idea about how much they can see.

The image below shows the Lea paddles. If the child looks towards the striped paddle, we assume they can tell the difference between the stripes and the grey paddle.

Man holds up two paddles, one is striped and the other is grey.

A written report to parents follows the assessment, outlining and explaining the result. This includes recommendations for making the best use of visual abilities.

The report can also be made available to other people at the parents' request. This may include organisations such as preschools and schools, therapists working with the child and the ophthalmologist.

These assessments do not replace the regular checks with an ophthalmologist, but they provide additional information about a child’s visual performance and needs.

How often is an assessment needed?

After each assessment, the orthoptist will recommend when you should bring your child back for their next assessment.

Assessments are often conducted prior to children starting childcare, preschool, or school so that current information can be made available to other agencies working with your child.

The timing for your child's assessment is best discussed with your Vision Australia service coordinator.

Contact us

Contact us early and get the support you need. For more information on Vision Australia’s services call our helpline on 1300 84 74 66 or email You can also connect with our services here.