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Thursday / June 20.
HomemifashionKids’ Eyewear That’s In Your Face

Kids’ Eyewear That’s In Your Face

Kids under the age of five usually won’t complain of vision problems because it’s something they’ve grown up with so they simply think what they’re seeing is normal. Yet left untreated, these kids will miss out on much of the joy of learning and may never reach their potential… all for the sake of a simple eye test and a pair of very funky glasses!

In Australia, undetected vision problems are estimated to affect approximately one in four Australian children – or 600,000 nationally. According to international studies, these vision problems can impact a child’s ability to succeed in school and their behaviour.

Most of a child’s learning is done with their eyes – whether it’s reading, writing, whiteboard work, computers, art, playtime or sports. The ability to use the eyes together, to focus appropriately, and to move the eyes when needed are essential to development and the ability to learn.

According to the experts, a child who avoids reading or writing, has lower than expected comprehension or a short attention span, can often be incorrectly suspected of dyslexia or attention deficits whereas the real problem is with their vision – and often that vision problem can be easily managed by you – the optometrist.

Spring hinges that enable the frames to be bent and twisted are also worthy of promotion…

Encourage Regular Testing

As an optometrist, you can encourage your patients to bring their children in for regular testing. Most optometrists would agree that a child’s vision should be tested before they start school to check stereo acuity, colour vision, tracking, teaming and focusing. Then, at 7–8 years of age, they should be checked to ensure visual efficiencies such as their ability to change focus, track words and sentences and to screen for visual information processing ability. Further checks should be made before entering high school and again
at Year 11, when the workload significantly intensifies.

Children who need vision correction should have their eyes tested annually as their vision can change quickly and often, and these changes may go unnoticed.

Frame Choice

While young children will often ask for a frame that is similar to the one their parent wears, as they get older, most will strive to be different. Fortunately there is a multitude of kids’ eyewear out there and the choice is getting bigger.

Kids’ frames are available in basic metal, memory metal and acetate (or combinations of these). The most important considerations should be comfort, fit and whether or not they like the way the frame looks and feels on their face. If any of these aspects don’t pass muster, you can bet the frames will be thrown into the bottom drawer.

For the eye care professional, one of the toughest aspects of fitting the chosen frame will be ensuring it stays firmly in place – this is especially true when working with younger children. If a child’s bridge is not fully developed, the frame will slip, resulting in discomfort and frustration. Metal frames, with adjustable nose pads, can easily overcome this problem and can be altered as the child grows.

Wrap-around glasses or a strap are sensible for young kids who’re constantly on the run, playing and unaware of the need to look after their glasses. For infrequent users though, wrap-around glasses will probably annoy, as they’re more difficult to put on and pull off.

The good news is that having recognised the value of wrap-arounds for some young wearers, eyewear brands like oio are increasingly making this aspect of the frame a design feature by using quirky combinations of colour, shape and materials.

Spring hinges that enable the frames to be bent and twisted are also worthy of attention – particularly to parents of toddlers or sporty kids who are more likely to handle their glasses roughly.

As the expert, it is wise to talk to a child and their parents, about the choice of frame style for the child to ensure they find a style that suits their optical needs, lifestyle and personality. A child with a quiet personality will probably feel safer and less conspicuous in a conservative frame. Conversely, a boisterous, confident young person may prefer brighter colours, themed frames or a bolder shape.

In this day of increasing competition on the sports field, athletic children can’t afford to let vision hold them back. Fortunately, kids sports glasses have become as sophisticated as those designed for their adult counterparts with inner safety side cushions, hypoallergenic soft nose pads and anti-slip temple pads, to make them safe and comfortable, while stopping them from slipping under sweaty conditions. The removable velcro-headbands are washable and can be adjusted to fit heads of all shapes and sizes.

Lens Choice

As with any prescription glasses, there is a wide range of lenses to choose from according to your younger patient’s vision needs. However, one of the most important considerations should be to recommend a lens that provides as much impact and scratch resistance as possible.

An anti-reflective coating can help improve clarity of vision for children who spend much of their time looking at the screen of a computer, iPad or smart phone (and let’s face it – whose child doesn’t these days!).

Whether the child needs a single focus, bifocal or multi focal lens will of course depend on their vision needs but either way, it’s vital that you spend time educating them on how to wear and use their glasses. This will help avoid endless frustration and the risk that the child will throw their glasses away in disgust. Where to look through the lens for reading as opposed to looking at the board will naturally have an immediate impact on the way a child perceives and comes to accept their glasses.

Kids in Control

EyecareKids in Sydney’s suburb of Hillsdale opened its doors in April this year with a focus on children’s eyewear. Optom Sue Nam said she opened the practice because she enjoys working with children, diagnosing and managing strabismus and amblyopia, and making a difference to those with learning difficulties.

“Our practice is geared to providing a whole suite of services – functional eye exams, visual processing assessments and vision therapy as well as offering a large range of kid specific frames and lenses,” said Ms. Nam.

The fact that this is predominantly a kids’ practice is obvious, with plenty of colourful kids’ frames on display and cartoon characters galore.

“We developed four characters for the practice: Max the Magician; Bella the Bear; Percy the Penguin; and Danny the Dragon. Each of them has a visual problem – for instance, Percy the Penguin wears a patch because he has a lazy eye. We use them as a platform to educate the parents and make the whole process of being examined and getting glasses less frightening for children.”

“We’ve had a really good response from the local community,” Ms, Nam said. “Teachers… come through and pick up brochures to take back to their school and parents bring in their children with specific vision problems. A number of local schools partake in the local screening program we offer as well,” said Ms. Nam.

When it comes to selecting frames for the practice, Ms. Nam says it’s all about stocking a wide range of frames, including the more difficult to find ones, like prescription swimming goggles and baby frames. She said what’s important is to have the frames that appeal to kids – not their parents.

“The kids really do know what they want and they tell the parents what they will wear. They like plastic frames and bright colour – a lot more colour than their parents do.”

Ms. Nam said opening a store targeted at solving childrens’ eye health and eyewear needs has proven to be an effective way to differentiate her practice from the competition.

“The idea was to position our store based on service… and as part of providing that service, we offer a large range of kid’s products. This is definitely a market where you have to stand out to compete, and that’s what we’re achieving.”

Children’s Eyes Need Sun…

Intensive school work and a lack of outdoor light could be responsible for an “extraordinary rise” in the levels of myopia in major Asian cities, according to the results of an Australian study.

The study, by Professor Ian Morgan from the Australian National University, found that up to 90 per cent of school leavers in major Asian cities are myopic.

“They’ve gone from something like 20 per cent myopia in the population to well over 80 per cent, heading for 90 per cent in young adults,” Professor Morgan said.

According to the research, the problem is being caused by a combination of factors – long hours studying at school and doing homework, combined with a lack of outdoor light.

Professor Morgan argues that while extensive study puts pressure on the eyes, exposure to between two and three hours of daylight would act as a counterbalance and would help to maintain healthy eyes. Exposure to light increases the levels of dopamine in the eye and this seems to prevent elongation
of the eyeball. Children in Asian cities, the study found, are missing out on this light.

…But Not Too Much!

While some sunlight is good for vision, repeated exposure of the eyes to UV radiation causes both short-term eye complaints and permanent eye damage.

Short-term complaints include mild irritations such as excessive blinking, swelling, or difficulty looking at strong light. UV exposure can also cause acute photo keratopathy, or sunburn of the cornea. Exposure to UV radiation over long periods can result in more serious damage to the eyes, including cataracts, pterygium, solar keratopathy, cancer of the conjunctiva and skin cancer of the eyelids and around the eyes.

It’s worth noting that most UV exposure to the eyes comes when the sun is low to the horizon.

“A greater proportion of UV radiation reaches the eyes (at this time) from scattered light, from clouds and from reflected surfaces,” says Essilor’s professional services manager Helen Venturato.

She said to completely protect the eyes, UV needs to be blocked from entering the eye through the side and from the back surface of the sunglass lens, not just the front.

Most damage is done to a person’s eyes before they reach 18 years of age – typically because children spend more time outdoors than adults and also because the lens of a child allows 70 per cent more UV rays to reach the retina than in an adult.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia, as soon as a child is old enough to manage wearing sunglasses they should be encouraged to do so. It recommends glasses labelled UV 400 or EPF (Eye Protection Factor) 9 or 10.