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Sunday / May 26.
HomemifashionRevealing a Child’s Superpower In a Pair of Glasses

Revealing a Child’s Superpower In a Pair of Glasses

VYCOZ GentleKids

Fitting a child with glasses for the first time can be a challenge – so too, ensuring that the child wears their glasses full time. But, as Michelle Hauschild learnt, once you crack it, it’s almost like discovering a child’s superpower.

The story is a familiar one. A baby or child needs to wear spectacles, but instead of spending time on their face, the glasses are discarded at the first opportunity. They’re left on the playroom floor, shoved down the back of the couch, or – as happened to a colleague – ditched from the car window. (That same colleague once found her son’s glasses in a beehive on the family farm… but that’s a story for another day!)

Natalie Ainscough, co-owner of Adelaide Orthoptics, and Orthoptic Clinical Coordinator at the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said eye health professionals have an important role to play in parent education, when encouraging glasses wear gets tough.

“You’ve dispensed a really decent pair of frames, but their mum comes in and says ‘well, they don’t like them, they’re looking over them. Why is that?’ Knowing that is normal, and knowing to continue encouraging is really important for those in the eye health world.

“But that tough time, if parents know that pushing through is safe and okay, is (usually) two to three weeks and then the child starts to go, ‘oh yeah, this is better and this is nicer’ and then you start rolling down the hill.”

She said many parents expected their child to have an ‘a-ha moment’ when fitted with spectacles for the first time, but “that’s not the norm”.

“First time glasses wearers who are young children… have got these coping mechanisms in place… they’re focussing their eyes so hard. You put them in glasses prescribed by their optometrist or ophthalmologist, and they don’t go ‘oh that’s great’. Their eyes are unable to relax that quickly. So, they often report seeing blurrier through them for the first few days, and the parents need to know that’s okay, that there’s going to be this period of adaptation,” Ms Ainscough said.

“That’s why the good fitting pair of glasses that doesn’t slip down their nose, that actually isn’t too big, is so important… because these children will choose to look over them if they can.”

RIGHT FIT, RIGHT PRESCRIPTION

Nicky Kiparissis from Kiddies Eye Care – a specialist paediatric optometry practice operating in Melbourne and Geelong – agreed incorrect fit was one of the most common reasons for kids not wanting to wear glasses. The other was an incorrect prescription.

“The PD (pupillary distance) is so crucial and the fit of the frame… some children will need a nose pad – adjustable nose pads are a really good option. Some kids, particularly Asian children that have got a flat bridge, they need the nose pads that adjust higher and lower to where we need to fit the frames,” she said.

Keyhole bridges were also very useful for fitting children, she said. “And the weight of the glasses, that’s a big determinant of how comfortable they are.”

MANAGING PARENTS

Ms Kiparissis allows an hour for examining new junior patients. She said listening to children, and tuning in to how they are feeling was crucial, but so was managing parents, who often transfer their anxiety to the children.

“The kids get it if you spend time explaining it to them, but parents’ emotions get involved. I had one mum (who told her child, being fitted for glasses) ‘I’m so sorry for you. Your beautiful face won’t be seen anymore’.

“I pulled her (aside) and said, ‘I don’t want to hear that again… you have no chance of (the child) wearing glasses if you talk like that’,” Ms Kiparissis told mivision.

Ms Kiparissis said if a practice is unsure about fitting babies or children with glasses, the responsible option is to refer on.

“I wish they would. They should. Because if they get it wrong, it is often so wrong.

“Eighty per cent of how kids learn is through their vision. If we can’t get the right glasses on so they can develop and learn when they’re little, these kids are going to have learning difficulties. Getting it right, gee, it’s just so huge. It can really change a kid’s learning and love of school if you get it right the first time.”

GAINING CONFIDENCE

Ms Ainscough said she spends time “really boosting children up… because a lot of the time they just need to find their confidence in it and know it’s okay to say ‘these feel funny or it feels funny behind my ear’ because then the glasses can be adjusted “or maybe next time we can get a different style behind the ear if that’s what bothers the child”.

“I spend quite a lot of time with parents reassuring them that children are very resilient, and they are incredibly adaptive in their daily life. Children are the masters of it. We just need to help them take the first steps and they tend to do the rest once we get them on that pathway,” she explained.

FINDING THE SUPERPOWER

Ms Ainscough said she recruits parents – and sometimes the child’s wider community – into encouraging glasses wear.

“If other family members have glasses… even if they’re fake Harry Potter ones from Kmart – the child seeing that (the wearing of glasses) mirrored in their family members can be exceptionally helpful.”

She maintains a book list of stories with characters wearing glasses, but also recommends buying dolls and bears with glasses.

“There are some fantastic toys and things out there to help children understand that this is a variation of normal… there are some really lovely things available in the mainstream nowadays.

“I also love getting the school or kindy involved… let’s say they’ve chosen a book from the book list that I’ve got… they might take it into school and read the book in the reading time with the class and then (the teacher) can explain why the child has glasses and why those glasses are special to that child and not to anyone else,” Ms Ainscough said.

“I’m very much about helping the child understand what the new normal is, which is wearing glasses all the time, but linking it in the positive sense with… anyone that’s interacting with them regularly so that it becomes almost like their superpower.”

Keeping Glasses on Babies

While older children can be reasoned with, and privileges such as favoured activities traded for glasses time, Ms Ainscough provides these top tips for keeping glasses on your littlest patients.

While acknowledging some of the suggestions are unusual, some parents may find they do the trick, she said.

  1. Distraction – the busier you can keep their hands, the better!
  2. Leave the glasses on during daytime naps, if the child has a comfortable, silicone-type frame. “Sometimes the process of putting them on makes the child hyper aware that they are wearing glasses,” Ms Ainscough said.
  3. Use a glasses head strap or retainer. “A strap on its own won’t prevent glasses from being removed by an older baby (10–12mths), but it will slow them down enough to give you an opportunity to catch them removing them.”
  4. Watch out during walks, as it is a key time for babies to drop their glasses. “We met one parent who adapted a dummy clip so it attached securely onto the glasses during walks, so if the glasses were dropped or thrown, they wouldn’t go far.”
  5. Consider using gloves or mittens to slow them down and make it harder to remove glasses; hopefully they will give up.
  6. If all else fails, baby floaties are often enough to stop babies being able to reach their glasses. “Our final recommendation is an odd one, but it works! Neck floats have been reported to be dangerous for babies to use in the pool, but with supervision they are great for preventing glasses removal,” Ms Ainscough said.

 

Finding Your Patient’s SUPERPOWER

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