I clearly remember when I realised I needed glasses myself – I was at high school, and had somehow figured out that if I stretched my eyelids out sideways, I could actually read the board clearly for a few seconds. A friend noticed the habit, ignored it as an oddity for a while and then pointed out that it’s actually completely abnormal, and that maybe I just needed glasses. It was such a slow decline in vision that I simply hadn’t noticed myself, let alone my parents! So how do you know if your child needs glasses? Like most parents, I take my children along to have their eyes checked every couple of years. I always made sure they had their first check before starting school, and then revisited as necessary. But when my oldest was 10, he began to mutter about having difficulty seeing the board at school.
Cue hideous parental guilt pangs, and a rapid visit to the optician; to be told yes, he is as shortsighted as his mother *sigh*.
So yes – it’s tricky to spot the signs quickly yourself, and children are habitual copers; they’ll just carry on with life, not thinking to complain when the world gradually softens and blurs around them. But there are some common warning signals to look out for (all of which were there for our son, but which we’d put down to other causes, naturally…)
- Does your child sit too close to the television?
- Do they have problems catching or hitting a ball?
- Do they skip or re-reading words?
- Do they complain of frequent headaches?
- Do they frequently rub their eyes (or pull them sideways to focus… ;) )
- Do they turn the head to use one eye only?
- Do they blink frequently?
- Do they bump into objects?
It’s not a brilliant list is it? If you have a naturally clumsy uncoordinated child (yes), who has loved being up close to the television since they were a toddler (yes) who often tries to read too fast and therefore skips bits by not concentrating (yes) it’s easy to see how a lot of the signs could be missed.
But don’t fret – as soon as you know, head straight to the opticians and get them checked. The good news is that eye tests are free on the NHS for all children under 16 and up to 19 years old if they are still in full-time education. There are special tests for children too young to know what their letters areAnd if they need glasses? Well, it’s really no biggie. Any worry you may have will rapidly fade when you see their faces the very first time they go out wearing them. The sheer open-mouthed wonder as the world comes back into crisp sharp focus – you’ll wish you’d noticed sooner, but never underestimate the happiness good eyesight brings.
And of course, gone are the days of the hideously ugly NHS specs. If your child is a bit concerned or embarrassed about their need for glasses, Vision Express have some really brilliant tips on helping your child to feel confident. Suggestions include making the choosing fun and letting them choose for themselves (this was the first thing we insisted on when our son looked to us for guidance on which he should pick; after all, it’s your child who has to wear them everyday, so let them have a style of frame that they genuinely like and not what you think is suitable or appropriate!). Flicking through a magazine to play ‘spot the glasses’ is a good way of positively enforcing the number of people in public life who wear them, too.
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