When my son's teacher handed me a referral recommending that he see a certified Optometrist as soon as possible, I honestly didn't pay much attention.
The local university had conducted a vision screening where the children's eyesight would be tested by students and any findings would be documented and, if needed (as in my son's case), given to the parents to bring to an Optometrist for a more in depth exam.
I had convinced myself that he had probably been fooling around during the exam and that as the cause for the referral.
I just couldn't accept that there was anything wrong with his vision; my son had been talking since what felt like birth, and he was able to articulate quite sufficiently how he was feeling health wise at any given time. Yes, I myself had glasses, but had excellent vision as a child and only developed far-sightedness as a teenager. Surely I would have noticed if something was off. Certainly his teacher would have said something! His didn't appear to have any trouble reading or writing and although he had suffered from headaches when he was younger they had been diagnosed as migraines and not related to vision.
So when I walked into the Optometrist's office in my little town, I was fully prepared to waste the good Doctor's time and have to later lecture my son on cooperating while having exams such as these in order to avoid being misdiagnosed.
As things rolled along, I quickly realized I was sorely mistaken. As the doctor had him take a look through that big lens (called a phoropter) and call out the pictures on the far wall, it seemed as though everything was fine. He breezed through from the larger objects to the smaller. The doctor switched lenses and eyes and began the process again. Suddenly, after the first or second picture, my son began squirming around. He started poking at the doctor and making jokes. "Hey, focus buddy! Stop that, just answer the doctor!" To be honest, I was a little embarrassed at his behavior. As the exam went on and my son's behavior grew increasingly worse, it dawned on me. He's not choosing to ignore the doctor's questions, he can't. Oh my God, he can't see.
The doctor finally rolled his chair away from my son and turned to face me. He switched on the lights and said, "Well it looks like I've found out what's going on with this big guy."
He went on to explain that my son had Amblyopia and recommended he be fitted for glasses immediately. Dealing with my own shock and guilt for not knowing something was wrong, my heart sank as I saw the fear cross my son's face.
Thoughts raced through my head: How will he be treated at school? How will he feel about them? How will he feel about himself? Will they work?
Over the next week I did what I always do if i don't know how to handle a parenting dilemma: I turned to the Internet. I scoured through pages and pages, first about Amblyopia, then about dealing with wearing the glasses themselves.
Here are a few things that I learned and seemed to help my son adjust to new glasses:
- Address any concerns that the child may have, no concern or question is silly and all are important to the child's well-being.
- Involve them in picking out the frames, choosing their favorite colour while being practical about weight, helps them to regain control of a situation they don't have control of.
- Point out people in their lives whom they respect and admire that wear glasses, my son has an Aunt and Uncle who both wear glasses and most importantly we pointed out that Superman himself needs glasses.
- Don't make wearing the glasses a big deal, if they forget to put them on, or if they've taken them off, simply have them put them back on. If you nag and lecture, it creates a negative reaction surrounding the entire process. In fact, their vision is improved when they wear their glasses and you may notice that they will start putting them on without having to be asked because they can see!
- Teach them to respect their glasses and never to allow another child to hold or try them on. They are likely the most expensive thing your child will be wearing on a daily basis.
- As in my son's case, when dealing with younger children, be there to support them when they first see their friend's with their new glasses. Make it exciting and positive. My son's teacher was awesome, saying, "Wow class, check out his COOL glasses!" Friends and family have been supportive as well always commenting on how handsome he is.
- Be there for your child if someone does say something hurtful or that causes them to feel embarrassed about wearing them. Shrugging off teasing can cause a communication break down and your child may not feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you in the future.
- Watch your own language and behavior about the subject! Learning there was something wrong with my son's vision had me riddled with guilt, sadness and anxiety. I had to deal with my own feelings appropriately and project a positive outlook on the situation if I wanted him to feel secure about it.
Since my son has had his glasses he's adjusted quite well with friends and family being nothing but supportive. What's more, his vision is improving and there is hope that by the time he reaches puberty he may not need to wear glasses (motivation we use to keep on top of wearing them).
I hope my story has given some insight into what it's like dealing with vision problems and how to help your child adjust, keeping their self-confidence in tact. After all, even Superman wears glasses!
For more information about when you should have your child's eyes examined please visit All About Vision, a great site covering all things vision! Eye exams for children are FREE almost everywhere in Canada and many vision problems can be improved if not corrected entirely if caught early enough!
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