From the early pre-K years to senior year, school is about so much more than pens, books and friendships. Your child should also have a clean bill of health before starting a new year of learning.

Connecticut Children’s pediatrician, Dr. Abraham Khorasani, breaks down why children need a back-to-school exam and what parents can expect.

Why does my child need a back-to-school exam?

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends a yearly check-up (also called a “well visit”) for children 2 to 18 years old to check in on growth and development and address any health issues or concerns you may have about your child.  Being up to date on regular well visits and required vaccines are the key to staying in good health and preventing illness, and back-to-school is a great time to schedule these visits, as many extracurricular and sports programs require it. Check with your child’s program director for more details if you’re unsure.

>Related: Return to Play: Athletes Need 6 Weeks to Get Back in Shape

When should I schedule my child’s back-to-school exam?

An ideal time to schedule your child’s check-up is at or before the beginning of the school year, to ensure that they are up-to-date on their required vaccines and have all necessary paperwork for the new school year and sports season. But we know life gets busy—so it’s never really too early or too late.  This can also be a busy time of year for your child’s pediatrician, so it’s a good idea to schedule your child’s check-up in advance.

What can I expect at my child’s annual physical?

Lots of important things like:

  • Checking height, weight, blood pressure and more 
  • Screening for hearing and vision issues 
  • Making sure your child meets all motor, social and verbal milestones 
  • Addressing any physical, emotional or behavioral concerns that have come up, especially during the puberty years

>Related: Questions Teens Should Be Asking Their Doctor

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Remind me again: what’s the typical well-visit and vaccine schedule, by age?

In general, school-age children should have a well visit once a year, but it’s always best to check with your pediatrician because schedules can change based on guidelines from both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC.  Additionally, your pediatrician may want to see your child more often to follow up on any ongoing medical, behavioral or emotional concerns.  Here are the basics:

  • Well visits from birth through adolescence: This resource from the AAP is very helpful because it contains a schedule of screenings and assessments recommended at each visit. 
  • Recommended vaccination schedules for infants and children: This guide has easy-to-understand vaccine schedules by age group. COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be given on the same day. According to the CDC, millions of children have safely received vaccines together. Always check with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.

Related: Don't Delay Your Child's Vaccines. Here's Why.

Is there anything else I should know or keep in mind?

You know your child best. Never be afraid to speak up, and encourage your child to speak up for themselves if they’re able. And remember, your pediatrician is your ally!