Your first reaction might be guilt. "Part of you feels like a bad parent because you think you should've known, but you also realize it may have been impossible to know because there were no signs. It's important to get past the guilt and take action," says Anita Hoffarth, Fargo. Her son, Paden, needed glasses at age 4 after a pediatrician identified a vision problem during a check-up. Today, glasses bring every part of his life into focus,
from first-grade schoolwork to Cub Scout activities to soccer games.
Good Vision is Key
Good vision matters at every age, but it's especially important in school-age children. Up to 80 percent of learning occurs through the eyes, whether through reading, writing, chalkboard work or using computers.
"Whether in the classroom or at play, children constantly use their eyes," says Maggie Suby, O.D., board-certified optometrist at MeritCare in Fargo. "Good vision drastically improves quality of life."
Dr. Suby speaks from experience. In fifth grade, she encountered a whole new world with her first pair of glasses. "I was amazed at what I saw – buildings had bricks and trees had leaves," she says. "I couldn't believe all that I had been missing. That experience triggered my interest in becoming an optometrist. Good vision helps children be their best."
Choosing an Optometrist
The path to good vision begins by making an appointment to see an optometrist. How do you choose? Many people rely on recommendations from their friends and relatives, and that's a good start. Make sure the recommended optometrist is board-certified, too.
Likeability is also a factor. When your child likes his/her optometrist, cooperation increases and makes next year's checkup that much easier. "Paden likes a doctor who engages him – asks him questions, talks to him, interacts with him," says Anita.
Preparing for the First Exam
Time of day matters when it comes to children's eye exams. Dr. Suby recommends early in the day, when children are more refreshed.
She also recommends parents explain ahead of time what's involved in an eye exam. "As adults, we know an eye exam is easy, but to a child it's an unknown. That's why it's always helpful when parents talk to their children first," she says. Three areas to cover:
- No shots. "Many children automatically connect the word 'doctor' with shots, so you'll want to clarify right away that eye doctors don't give shots," she says.
- The equipment used in the exam – and none of it hurts.
- Lots of questions! Is the object clear or blurry? Better this way or that way?
"We make an eye exam into a fun experience – there's nothing scary or painful," says Dr. Suby.
Success with Glasses
After the exam, an optician guides the frame-selection process – often the highlight of getting glasses. "When I was in fifth grade, it wasn't cool to have glasses, but that's really changed. Now a lot of kids are excited about getting them," says Dr. Suby.
But as a parent, you might not be so excited about the cost. Tips for keeping costs down:
- Let your child select his/her own frames, but specify the rows/sections of frames that can be considered.
- For children who are especially active and prone to breaking glasses, consider glasses made to last – spring hinges, polycarbonate lenses and titanium frames.
- From the start, assign safe places at home to keep glasses – a great way to prevent unfortunate incidents involving glasses on chairs.
- Shop for bargains! Take advantage of year-end sales that motivate flex-benefits spending.
What about contacts? It's a question that often comes up as a child get older. "When I'm asked about contacts by a seventh or eighth grader, I'm comfortable a person that age can take on the responsibility of caring for them," says Dr. Suby. When younger patients
ask about contacts, Dr. Suby involves parents in the discussion.
Finally, what do you do if your child has misgivings about wearing glasses? Become a cheerleader. "The best thing parents can do is be positive – talk about how cute your kids will look in glasses and how great it will be to see clearly," says Dr. Suby.
Other children can serve as role models, too. Thanks to Paden's influence, two children at daycare who didn't want to wear their glasses now wear them. With bright eyes and wire-rimmed glasses, Paden explained to them the best reason: "You can play because you can see."
See Better Today
With two locations in Fargo and several across the region, MeritCare Eye Centers are your convenient source for eye care, including board-certified optometrists, quality exams and a wide selection of frames. And from now until Oct. 31, we offer a special price. Take 25 percent off a complete eyewear purchase. Visit meritcare.com to find a location near you.