Imagine how scary the world would be if you couldn’t see beyond the end of your nose! Anxious? – I would be. But this is how undiagnosed poor eyesight feels. That is why it’s so important to book that eye test if you think your son or daughter might need one.
Children with additional needs are very likely to have eye problems. In fact, it’s as high as two in three children with additional needs will have problems with their eyesight. These statistics I didn’t realise until I interviewed Antonia Chitty in last week’s podcast. Antonia Chitty is a well-known author as well as an optometrist. She passionately talks about getting eye tests for our children, and how to manage the process.
It seems there are two main reasons for these unrecognised sight issues. Firstly, parents aren’t sure that even if they get their child through the door of an optometrist, their child will be able to do an eye test. But actually, even if you child doesn’t read or communicate verbally, there are various tests that optometrists can do to find out whether a child has sight issues or not.
Secondly, and this is based on my own personal experience, often there is so much else going on with health issues that something not so obvious gets forgotten about. It would be another appointment at an often busy and stressing time of other medical appointments, and so none of us go looking for more. Plus, if your child is a bit older, it’s not easy to convince them to go to yet another appointment.
But Antonia gives some practical tips for finding an optometrist to suit your child’s needs. First up, word of mouth is always a good place to start. Get recommendations from friends. There are also groups like SeeAbility in the UK, COVD in the US and ACBO in Australia that can provide you with links to qualified optometrists.
There are also some other things to think about to make the whole thing less stressing. Consider what time of day will work best. Will your child want to visit, and become familiar with the environment on a day before they actually go in for an eye test? Simple preparation steps could really make a difference.
Antonia suggested getting ready for the appointment by talking about what is going to happen during the test. Making your child really familiar with the process will take away some of the stress. Another thing we could try is shining a light around our child’s eyes before the test. This will give them practice for what the optometrist will do, and make the process less scary when done by a stranger.
To recognise poor sight there are certain tell-tale signs we should look out for in our children. Do they rub their eyes a lot? Do they like to be really close up to things? Headaches? Squinting in bright lights? – these all suggest that there could be a problem.
Speaking to Antonia Chitty has made me so much more aware of the importance of sight tests. So many things I didn’t realise. The world is scary when you can’t see it, and if you don’t believe me, listen to Antonia’s Podcast. From now on, I will constantly monitor my daughter’s sight, and I would urge everyone to put a sight test on the To-Do List, even if you don’t think your child needs one. Book one anyway, today, now.