Recently I learned some interesting things about kids vision and how to help them from developing nearsightedness. But before we get to all of that, a little backstory…
My daughter became fixated on glasses—for no real apparent reason, or so I thought.
It began with KC buying her American Girl doll cute raspberry reading glasses. She also bought a play headgear for her doll as well. Seeing the headgear brought a flood of awful childhood memories, so I had to know.
“KC, why do you want that?” I said pointing to the micro contraption.
“Because, Moooommmm, it’s cute and fun!”
Hmmm, I bet if she had to actually wear one she would think it was less “cute.”
About a month after the AG doll glasses purchase, I went to the eye doctor because I began to feel like the elastic woman in The Incredibles; only my arms didn’t always stretch enough so I could read small print. The verdict was that I needed reading glasses for reading and working on the computer.
That appointment was in September. In about October, I made my first attempt to get the prescription filled and KC was with me. Actually it was at her insistence because she wanted to help me pick out the frames. While in there, she mentioned that she thought she needed glasses. Thinking back to the headgear, I figured it was probably just because she thought they were “cute” so I let it roll.
Later in October at conferences, I followed up with KC’s teachers. Was she having any issues with reading or seeing the board? The resounding answer was “no.” Validated in my assessment that it was a fad for her, I didn’t pursue it further.
In November we tried again to get my prescription filled. This time, just like the first attempt, resulted in waiting for over an hour with no end in sight. KC was with me this time as well and again mentioned that she thought she needed glasses—mind you she said this while pulling frames for me and telling me which ones she thought were the cutest.
Again, believing it was a fad I blew it off.
Fast-forward through the holidays to January. Determined to not wait any longer, I went to LensCrafters when they first opened and filled my prescription. But, as I was selecting frames, I kept hearing KC’s voice in my head. Knowing that she would comment on my new glasses, I figured I would put it all to rest and make an appointment for her. After all, she hadn’t had her eyes checked in a while.
During the appointment, I watched her fail test after test, and it dawned on me that I had misread her needs completely. She really did need glasses. This point was further confirmed when she put her new glasses on for the first time and exclaimed, “WOW Mom! I can finally see!”
Yup… I had mom guilt on this one. But, what the doctor said next was really interesting and made me feel somewhat better.
According to the doctor, she needed them for reading and the issue was that when she would go from reading to looking at the board, her eye muscles weren’t strong enough and so things looked blurry. That’s why it would have been difficult to know she was having an issue because depending on what she was doing, sometimes the world around her would be clear and other times it would be blurry. It all depended on what she was doing with her eyes immediately before. Luckily, it is something that KC might grow out of as she gets older and her eye muscles strengthen- provided she is careful about reading too much or playing handheld games.
LESSON 1: Kids can have mixed vision. They can still be having problems even if they aren’t always squinting to see.
The doctor asked if KC read or played handheld games a lot. Before I could respond, my ever so “shy” daughter piped up, “I LOVVVEEEE to read.” KC is at the point where she is heavily reading chapter books. While this is academically wonderful, apparently it can be detrimental to the development of her eyes if she sits and reads for an hour straight.
The doctor explained that kids should spend no more than 20-30 minutes reading or playing a handheld game. Then they should take a walk or get up and do something where their eyes aren’t focused on something so close to their face. Failing to do so essentially strengthens the eye muscles which govern seeing things close up and can make the children more prone to nearsightedness. To fully develop the eye muscles, kids need to balance their activities through the day.
LESSON 2: Set a timer if your kids are reading or playing handheld games. After 20 minutes make them do jumping jacks, go outside or really anything else where they have to use their distance vision.
Ironically about a month after KC got her glasses, this popped in the news. If you have younger kids who like to play with your phone, tablet or are just voracious readers, you may to learn more how to help their eyes develop appropriately. Check it out here: http://wtop.com/256/3571538/Mobile-use-causing-nearsightedness-in-children