Jessica Butler’s son, Scott, was born with a cataract. He had his cataract removed at 4 weeks. Since then, he’s been rocking a contact and glasses and eye patch.
Jessica is also a freelance graphic designer and has decided to put her talents to great use in designing fantastic, fun, creative, and stylish shirts (and a superhero cape) for kids in glasses. She has started Eye Power Kid’s Wear, and is running a Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. Take a look at the project. I hope you’ll consider backing it to help get this off the ground!
It’s that time of year again… it’s the start of the Great Glasses Play Day planning season. Last year, we had our first annual Great Glasses Play Day on the first Sunday in August, and it was so much fun that of course we had to do it again. The Great Glasses Play Day is co-founded by me and Kristin Ellsworth from Peeps Eyewear. It’s a day when families with kids in glasses, patches, or contacts across the world get together to celebrate better vision for our children and to raise awareness of the importance of early detection and treatment of vision issues in children. But really, mostly we get together to play and to connect. Sound like fun? Check out the Great Glasses Play Day website for information on how you can participate. We’re especially looking for people to help us get the word out, and to plan local get togethers. (If you’ve already signed up to help, you should hear from me shortly!).
Most of the books on our children’s book list are about getting glasses. But once kids are used to having their glasses, they may not be so interested in those story lines. Here are some children’s book series in which a main character wears glasses, even if the plot in most of the books doesn’t center around wearing glasses (in some of these books, glasses aren’t even mentioned). These are roughly in reading level order with the books for younger kids at the top, though some of the series have a range of reading levels, and even the longer chapter books can be fun to read out loud with preschoolers. We’ve read books from all of these series out loud with Zoe.
Elephant & Piggie series, by Mo Willems
- Character in glasses: Gerald the Elephant
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? No
- About the books: Despite being quite different, Gerald the elephant and Piggie are good friends, and these fun picture books follow their adventures together. Most of the books have simple story lines that center around friendship and having fun. They’re great to read aloud, and are quite short, which makes them good for younger kids with shorter attention spans.
- Website: (also check out the Teachers and the Fun sections for some Elephant & Piggie related activities)
Arthur series, by Marc Brown
- Character in glasses: Arthur the Aardvark
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? Yes, Arthur’s Eyes follows Arthur’s trip to the eye doctor, and his reluctance to wear glasses.
- About the books: Arthur books are probably the first books people think of when they think of a book series with a character in glasses. The books follow the day to day adventures of Arthur and his family and his friends. They can be quite funny. There are a lot of Arthur books and they span a range of reading levels, from short stories to longer chapter books.
- Website (this is for the Arthur books), you can also check out the website the PBS kids TV show about Arthur.
Gilbert and Friends series, by Diane deGroat
- Character in glasses: Gilbert
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? No
- About the books: Gilbert is an opossum with spiky hair and glasses. Most of the books follow the adventures of Gilbert and his friends at school in first grade. The books range in difficulty, but all of them have lovely, colorful illustrations throughout.
Katie Woo series, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammy Lyon
- Character in glasses: Katie Woo
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? No, but Who Needs Glasses? is about Katie’s friend Pedro who needs glasses and does not like them at first. Katie helps her friend see why they’re important.
- About the books: Katie is fun-loving, curious, and outgoing girl. The books center around her and her friends, Pedro and JoJo, and her family. These are early chapter books, each with three short chapters, and bright illustrations on each page. The books also have discussion and writing prompts at the end.
Junie B, First Grader series, by Barbara Park
- Character in glasses: Junie B. Jones
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? Yes, in Junie B. Jones, First Grader at Last, Junie starts first grade, and learns that she needs glasses.
- About the books: The Junie B. Jones books start out with Junie in kindergarten. When she gets to first grade, the series is name Junie B, First Grader, and the “B” in the logo is actually her pair of purple glasses. Junie is funny and loud and always says what she’s thinking, often to the embarrassment of her parents or teachers. The books are longer chapter books with fewer illustrations.
Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne
- Character in glasses: Jack
- Is there a book about the character getting glasses? No
- About the books: The Magic Tree House books about about siblings Jack and Annie. They discover a magic tree house filled with books. By reading the books in the tree house, they are transported to the times and locations in that book. These are longer chapter books with fewer illustrations.
As always, if I’ve missed a series, please let me know!
A couple things turned up today that I wanted to mention briefly:
- Using Tetris to treat amblyopia – This study has gotten quite a bit of press recently, my favorite write-up comes from Dr. Nate at Bright Eyes News. His explanation of amblyopis is excellent. A couple of quick thoughts on the study: 1) it was looking specifically at adults with amblyopia, and contrary to what was previously believed, many of the adults were able to improve their vision with treatment. The authors do not say whether this would be applicable to children. 2) As Dr. Nate points out, the Tetris part is not the most interesting part, what is interesting about the research was that it was looking at how encouraging the eyes to work together was very helpful in the treatment of amblyopia. 3) This was a small study (18 adults), hopefully it will lead to further study.
- A 5-Year old has YouTube tutorials for decorating patches – Addie is 5 and patches for amblyopia. She’s started decorating her patches with stickers, and has short YouTube videos with ideas for eye patch decoration. If your child is feeling very alone about wearing an eye patch, they might enjoy watching some of her videos. In this one, she also talks about what she would like other people to say if they see a child wearing an eye patch:
“It would be nice to say ‘Cool! Where did you get that? I want one!’ And it’s not nice to say, ‘why do you have that thing on your eye?’”
Addie, I completely agree.
A friend just posted this chart to their facebook wall, and it reminded me that I meant to finish a follow up to a previous post on what to say to kids wearing glasses. As one person pointed out in that post, comments are even harder on kids if your child is wearing a patch.
The pictures illustrating this are from our patching photo gallery.
First, a quick note on why kids wear eye patches…
There are a few reasons why a child might be wearing an eye patch. They may have injured their eye, or they may be recovering from surgery (for instance, cataract surgery). I suppose it’s possible that they may just be wearing one for fun, like at halloween or a dress up party. But the vast majority of kids wearing an eye patch are doing so as treatment for amblyopia (also known as “lazy eye”) or to prevent amblyopia.
With amblyopia, the visual pathways between an eye and the brain are not functioning correctly, so even with glasses or contacts, the vision in that eye is not as good as it should be. It can be caused by a number of reasons, misaligned eyes (strabismic amblyopia), one eye having a much stronger prescription than the other (anisometropic amblyopia), or even because one eye was not seeing well for other reasons like a cataract (deprivation amblyopia). No matter what the cause, once that underlying cause is treated, there is often still a need to encourage those visual pathways between the brain and that eye to start working.
The most common way to do that is through patching. By patching the good eye, the brain is forced to use the amblyopic eye. Kids who patch generally need to patch for a few hours a day, and they may need to continue the treatment for months or even years.
So what does that mean for me saying something to a child wearing a patch?
First of all, wearing a patch is HARD. Kids who are patching for amblyopia aren’t only having to adjust to using one eye, they are also having to deal with using an eye that does not see well. Most kids really, really struggle with patching, especially in the beginning.
Add to that the fact that eye patches are very noticeable and people seem to want to comment on them or ask about them all the time. It can make the most easy-going child very sensitive and unhappy. Most parents try to distract kids who are patching by letting them do favorite activities. Commenting on a child’s patch just reminds them that they’re patching, and that they look different while doing it, and it can throw off that days patching treatment completely.
Things not to say to a child who is patching
- What’s wrong with your eye? / How did you hurt your eye?
Chances are, the child is patching for amblyopia or strabismus, and there’s actually nothing wrong with the eye that’s being patched. It’s the unpatched eye that is being treated. This is one of the most common questions and not only does it get to be tiring to answer, it also focuses on there being something wrong with the child.
- Are you trying to be a pirate?
Yes, pirates are often portrayed as wearing patches, and some kids like the association with pirates. But a lot of kids aren’t in to pirates, and some of them actively dislike them because of the association with patches. Exception: If they’re wearing a pirate-themed patch or pirate clothes, you’re probably safe bringing up pirates.
OK, so what should I say to a child who is patching?
Whatever you want, as long as it’s not about the patch! Seriously, ask the child about their day, tell them you like their shirt or their toy, or comment on the airplane flying by. If you know them, please be sure talk to them and see how they’re doing. One of Zoe’s biggest fears when she was patching was that friends wouldn’t recognize her with her patch on.
Also, no matter what you say, make sure you are making eye contact with their non-patched eye, not focusing on the patch.
But what if I really must say something about the patch?
- Did you wear a patch, or know someone who has patched?
Share that story. A lot of kids feel very alone when they’re patching. I know that Zoe really appreciated when her teacher told her about another little boy she taught who had to wear a patch.
I hesitate to recommend these next two because some kids are sensitive enough that they don’t want any reminder of their patch at all. If you must say something, you might try to discreetly ask the child’s parents if bringing up the patch will cause problems.
- Comment on how cool the patch looks.
A lot of patches have fun pictures or patterns on them. You might say that you really like the patch that they picked out.
- Tell them they’re doing a great job with patching.
Let them know that they’re doing a great job wearing that patch and working on seeing better.
Parents of patchers, did I miss any?
Back in September, I wrote about a study out of the Netherlands that found that children were much more likely to comply with patching if they were given a cartoon that explained amblyopia and the need for patching using simple pictures. I did some searching online, but was unable to find a copy of the cartoon. But our intrepid contributor GeorgeB did some investigating of his own, and contacted the researchers to find out more.
They graciously gave us permission to share a few more details of their project, including some pictures of the cartoon in question. They also said that they’re exploring ways to distribute an English version of the cartoon and leaflet for parents. If George or I learn more, we’ll definitely share it.
Until then, click the image below to read more about the materials that they made available for the kids and their parents to help with patching. I love that the cartoon is intentionally black and white, so that kids can color it however they choose.
Many, many thanks to GeorgeB for his work on tracking this down, and to Louise Hoppel for getting the permissions of the researchers artist, and for sending us the information!
Finding the right shop for glasses for your young child can make a huge difference in your child’s experiences with glasses. An good optical shop is far more than just a place to choose frames and lenses. A good shop will have experienced opticians who can help you find frames that fit your child well, and can adjust them appropriately. They can also give great advice on types of frames and lenses for your child, as well as suggestions on helping to make the transition to glasses easier. They’ll also be your place to go when glasses get bent, or scratched, or when you need to update their prescription. So it is absolutely worth it to find a great shop.
Start by getting recommendations for optical shops. You can ask your child’s eye doctor for recommendations for optical shops, though if they also sell glasses in the office, they may not have a recommendation beyond their own shop. Know that you do not need to purchase glasses at the same place where your child’s eye exam was. You should be given their prescription (it is part of their medical records, so make sure to get a copy).
If you know anyone with a young child in glasses, ask them about their experiences with optical shops. You can even stop someone on the street if you see they have a young child in glasses and ask for their recommendation. Chances are that they will have some opinions on the matter. You can also ask other friends who wear glasses if they have an optical shop they’d recommend, though a shop that is great for adults may not have the experience or selection you need for kids’ eyewear.
Below are some questions you may want to ask of any optical shops to help you choose one. You can go in person to a shop and ask about the following, but it may be easier to call before visiting, especially if you’re bringing a small child with you. Now, depending on where you live, you may not have a lot of shops to choose from, but it is still worth asking these questions, no matter where you go, to help you plan for choosing and purchasing glasses.
Selection of frames
Because young children are a small percentage of the customer base for optical shops, many shops don’t have a huge selection of the smallest frames. But don’t rely on what the shop has out on display. Some shops keep their children’s and baby’s frames in back.
Questions to ask:
- Tell them the age of your child and ask whether they carry frames in that size, and how many frames you’ll have to choose from.
- Ask about whether they would be willing to order some sample frames for you to try on in the store.
- Ask if they are willing to fill a prescription in frames that you bring in. If you cannot find frames in a shop, you can order frames online and have them filled by a shop, that will then help you with adjustments and fitting.
Experience with Children
Fitting glasses to small children is different than fitting them to adults. It requires a few different techniques and a certain understanding of how to work with young kids.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have an optician on staff that is trained or experienced with children?
- When do they work?
Few things in life are certain, but prescription changes and broken or scratched glasses on young kids are nearly a sure thing. Different shops have very different warranties for their frames and lenses. It is important to know what is covered and what is not going in. Young kids will outgrow their frames in a year or maybe two, so it is not worth it to get a warranty past that point.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have a warranty for the frames? Does it cost extra?
- Do you have a warranty for scratches on the lenses? Does that cost extra?
- Do you have a warranty for prescription changes in the first year?
Pricing and Insurance
Depending on where you live and what your insurance is, the cost of glasses can run from nothing, to a whole freakin’ lot of money. Most US health insurances will not cover glasses (though they usually cover the exam), if you have a separate vision insurance, find out if the shop takes that insurance, and what, if any, limits there are to using the insurance. You’ll also want to know what the price points or price ranges are before going in – you can ask about. Many shops also offer discounts if you order a second back-up pair or prescription sunglasses at the same time. A second pair of glasses can be a life saver if one pair needs to go in for repair, so depending on your budget and needs, this can be a great deal.
Questions to ask
- Do you accept vision insurance (if applicable)? Are all frames covered under the insurance, or only some of them?
- Do you have any older frames that are discounted?
- Do you offer a discount if I order a second pair of glasses at the same time?