Squints, glasses and patching – testing kids’ eye sight

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Yourchildatschool/Pages/Schoolhealthchecks.aspx

www.nhs.uk/Livewell

My 7 year old son has glasses, and so does my 9 year old daughter.  So do I.  And my husband has recently joined us in the glasses club when he needs to read.  So we’re quite the specky-four-eyed family (remember that un-PC phrase from the 70s?!)

The thing is the only reason my daughter has glasses is because my son started to wear them from a very young age.  Aged three, in fact.  She started to complain of headaches after school when in year 3, aged 7.  But she wouldn’t have asked to have her eyes tested if my son’s eyesight wasn’t such a big issue in our family.

You see my son has both a squint and a ‘lazy’ eye: one eye turns in slightly (squint) and is also very short sighted.  The other is near perfect. It was the squint that made me contact the doctor when he was three, after my mum urged me to do something about it, remembering the problems my brother had when young.  When we got the appointment with the orthoptic team at the local Children’s Centre, they discovered that not only did he have a squint, but his right eye was so weak, that his brain was not using it at all. Yikes, that was quite a surprise.

The prescription for this was glasses and patching.  Patching for a set number of hours a day, is the accepted way to force the ‘lazy’ eye to work.  We patched for an hour a day initially, working up to 6 hours a day.  The first time we did it he complained “Everything’s dark, mummy!” Yikes (again).  It was hard, there’s no doubt, but with lots of encouragement and sticker charts/rewards, his eye made a massive improvement in just one year. The improvement was much more gradual after that, and it is no where near perfect, but if we hadn’t patched him at that early age (we started when he was 3, nearly 4), we wouldn’t have seen the improvement we now have.

Kids with patches - www.solutions.3m.co.uk

Kids with patches – www.solutions.3m.co.uk

My point is that if it wasn’t for that squint, that slight turning in of the eye, we wouldn’t have had his sight tested, and would have been oblivious to the fact that he was, in effect, blind in one eye.

Getting your kids’ sight tested is so important.  Kids don’t often realise their sight is poor, thinking that fuzzy vision is normal.  Problems can be presented as frequent headaches, struggles with reading or homework, or even anti-social behaviour – if a child can’t see the teacher properly or the work on the white board, they’ll easily become bored and distracted…..

Leightons Opticians poster

Leightons Opticians poster

Here in the UK, sight tests for children (up to the age of 18) at any opticians are free.  If there are particular problems, or they are too young for a normal eye test (like my son) they get free treatment on the NHS.  We’ve had excellent care from the team at the Children’s Centre (in other towns the same professionals may be located in your local hospital).

Kids should get their eyes tested when they start school aged 4.  However, my daughter’s problems either weren’t picked up or developed after that test, so don’t just rely on the school eye test.

As my son is sporty, and still needs glasses, I can see that as he gets older he’ll probably need to consider contact lenses. And my daughter will most likely start to refuse to wear her glasses at some point if she finds none of her peers wearing them or they’re considered uncool (which thankfully isn’t yet).  When that day comes, I’m happy to consider contact lenses if it means they can see properly and don’t wander around half blind (my sister in law confessed to doing this as a teenager, as contact lenses were far more expensive then and the glasses on offer were far from the cool ones you can get now).  Thanks to Ben 10 and the current Star Wars style, my son is content to wear glasses for now.

So, what you waiting for? Go book that optician appointment!

NB This was NOT a sponsored post.

12 thoughts on “Squints, glasses and patching – testing kids’ eye sight

  1. I’ve designed a product for kiddies who wear specs to make wearing glasses a bit more appealing. They are called Blinx – £1.99 from myblinx.com. They are little charms that attach to the arms of glasses. Please pass on if you know of any little four eyed ones! myblinx.co.uk

  2. Hi, what a great way to raise awareness. I had a turn in my eye when I was very young and had an operation when I was 4 to improve it. Thankfully it worked, although I did have to wear a patch during some of my first year of primary school, I then got upgraded to some “terrific” milk bottle glasses (which my mum claims were my own choice, I swear she’s lying). I wore glasses every day for about 12 years but now I only need them when using a computer, driving, reading or watching TV. I also think glasses are a little more “acceptable” now for people who are conscious about wearing them… look at all the people who wear fake glasses for the “fashion” element. And there’s a much better selection from when I was younger. I only notice my turn (ever so slightly mind) when I am really, really tired but no-one else ever does. #PoCoLo

    • Thanks Tracey. So glad this has been helpful to those who know what its like, and those who don’t but have young kids. I can just see those milk bottle glasses….:-) Sadly my son still needs his glasses and no one else in his class has them so he sometimes finds that hard. But at least he has the contact lens option when older. Thx for dropping by! Sx

  3. Thank you for writing this post and raising awareness to this very important issue. As a mum of a child with severe visual impairment this subject is so close to my heart, but sometimes I feel like I am too preachy or the only one out there talking about it, so thank you so much for reminding me that I am not, that others do understand the pain of patching and eye-tests and glasses from a young age and lazy eyes fears…
    Sending you a big hug. xx

    • Thanks Orli, and I’m glad it resonated for you. I remember meeting you at the Britmums Xmas do. Its a tough thing for a kid (and parent) to go through. But they learn about doing things for the long term at a very young age, which isn’t a bad life lesson, at least. Sx

  4. We had a similar experience with our son Patrick.
    I suspected that he had a squint when he was two and it turned out he didn’t…it was much worse! He had astigmatism in the right eye and like Sam, his other eye was not doing any work at all!!! He was given a prescription for glasses at the age of two and I kept them on him from the minute he woke till the time he went to bed and as a result of this and lots of prayers on my part, he didn’t need an eye patch. He is now 7 years old and has 20/20 vision and the astigmatism has also considerably improved as a result of the glasses which he still wears. I’m told that when he reaches 8 he may not need to wear them all the time. So pleased we started at such a young age, infact he didn’t even try to take the glasses off or complain because they obviously improved his sight so much. Turns out he is colour blind too and that was also picked up at the Childrens Centre in St Albans where he was treated for 4 years.

    • Thanks for adding in all that T! I remember you saying this about P. In fact, I was going to refer to your expce as an example of how it pays off when you start as early as poss. But it was going to make the post too long. So cool his eyesight is so good now. Sadly, S’s right eye is still pretty weak (4.25, though it was 6.8 or something) and he had to stop patching for risk of developing double vision. But thankful it improved so much….Sx

  5. That’s really interesting! My 3-year-old squints, but not all the time. My husband says it’s normal, so I’m not really bothered, especially like I mentioned, she doesn’t do it all the time. But I will definitely keep an eye on her, maybe when she turns 4, I’ll take her to see the eye doctor 🙂 #PoCoLo

    • Ah, its not an actual squint as such. No, a ‘squint’ means when their eye turns in slightly. But, that said, if she’s squinting I wouldn’t hesitate taking her to the doctors to ask for a referral to your Orthoptic team. The earlier to catch poor eye sight the easier it is to fix – seriously. Don’t hang about. Sx

  6. And don’t forget that Alice got away with not seeing what was written on the whiteboard till she was 8 by asking other children to interpret for her – using her considerable intelligence!
    Mum

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