Marisa writes at The Speech Language Momologist. She has a great post about learning that her son needed glasses at age 3. It’s absolutely worth a read, especially as she talks about how hard it can be as a parent to take in difficult news about your child. She also mentioned a book that she made for her son to help him get accustomed to the idea of wearing glasses. I loved that idea and wanted to hear more. Luckily, Marisa was happy to share a bit more about that. Many thanks to Marisa! – Ann Z
When I first found out my 3 year old son, who I never suspected of having vision problems, had to wear glasses, I was hysterical. I cried my eyes out every time I thought about it, experienced guilt, shame, worry, anxiety, and fear, and basically just wallowed for days. Once I moved passed this roller coaster of emotions and got myself together, I knew that I had to do something productive. I called upon my professional knowledge and expertise and thought of a way I could help my son as he became a “little four eyes.”
As a speech-language pathologist, I’ve worked for many years with children on the autism spectrum. One of the things I had to always be aware of was that children with autism often have difficulty experiencing something for the very first time. They benefit greatly from what we call “priming,” which is preparing them for this new experience by letting them know what to expect. I think, and of course to a lesser extent than the children I worked with, we all have a fear of the unknown. I’ll use myself as an example. Never having had experience with a diagnosis of astigmatism and anisometrophia nor ever having a young child wearing glasses, I feared what was to come. So what did I do? I googled. I wanted to know what the diagnosis actually meant and what to expect being the parent of a young child with glasses. That’s exactly how I came to the Little Four Eyes website and Facebook support group.
Now, the children I worked with weren’t about to search the web to make themselves feel better, so along with my colleagues, we would present them with as much relevant information as we could. We had to find ways to make it child friendly. Sometimes just talking can be overwhelming, so a book that provides pictures, short chunks of information and a little fun can do just the trick.
This was what I decided to do for my son, who was about to get his very first pair of eyeglasses. The title of his book was simply, “Anthony Is Getting Glasses.” I started off by telling him what his glasses were going to do for him – make his eyes super strong and allow him to see clearly. Then, I put in some rules for wearing glasses. I made sure to include a picture that reflected the meaning of each rule to provide more of a visual for him. I figured these rules would come in handy later on and that it would be nice to be able to refer to it. (“Anthony, remember what the book said about putting your glasses on the floor?”) I went through the list of his favorite shows and printed pictures of all the characters that wore glasses and included them in the book. For fun, I printed out pictures of our family and drew silly eyeglasses on each of them.
I presented the book to my son about a week before we were going to pick up his glasses along with a few other children’s books about getting glasses. He enjoyed it and of course laughed at all the silly pictures. He was excited to become strong like a superhero and be more like some of his favorite characters. I was glad that I did it for him. It was a step in the right direction of making the experience of wearing eyeglasses a positive one.
You can use this book idea for any new situation your child is about to experience – it would be great for a child who is just starting to patch or even has an upcoming eye surgery. You can buy blank books at a local teacher’s store or even just staple together a few pages. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just be sure to make it something your child will enjoy!
Marisa Tarantino is a speech-language pathologist, wife, and mother of three energetic little boys. She currently writes a blog, The Speech-Language MOMologist, which focuses on sharing fun activities that parents can experience with their child to enhance language development, as well as, providing useful information and resources concerning child development. Pop on over at: www.thespeechlanguagemomologist.com
We’re getting closer to this year’s Great Glasses Play Day – our 3rd annual event will happen the first weekend in May!
What’s the Great Glasses Play Day?
For anyone unfamiliar with the event, it’s a day to celebrate kids in glasses, patches, and contacts. It’s a chance to meet up and have a good time and support one another. And it’s a chance to raise awareness of the importance of catching and treating vision issues early.
We have locations around the world where volunteers help to organize meet-ups. These often take place at parks or play areas. Mostly it’s a chance for our kids to get together and make new friends. We’ll provide organizers with flyers and materials for some of the activities, and we’ll help get the word out.
And the t-shirts for the day are available, too! Designed by Eye Power Kid’s Wear – proceeds from the sales will help cover some of the costs the come with throwing these events! Order your shirt today!
I love sharing stories of people who grew up with glasses, I think it helps me to hear what their childhood were life. I am so pleased that Nitie agreed to write about her experiences growing up with nystagmus. Many, many thanks, Nitie! -Ann Z
Growing Up with Congenital Nystagmus
Hello my name is Nitie Mehta and I have a 7 year old daughter. No she does not have Congenital Nystagmus but I do. I wanted to share with parents my experience of growing up with Congenital Nystagmus.
When Ann asked me to write about this I did not know where to start as there is so much I would like to share, so I am breaking this post into 3 sections
- Congenital Nystagmus: the way I see
- Only If I Knew This Before
- Adapting to everyday things
1) Congenital Nystagmus: the way I see
Growing up I just thought I was a normal child just like any other kid. I only needed glasses to see well. To be honest I really did not know why I wore glasses because I did not see any different with or without them. Yes, unfortunately glasses do not correct too much, I improved from 20/80 to 20/70. That meant I could not read the black board in class and could not recognize someone across the playground. If the font was large (14) and there was plenty of light I could read but otherwise I would avoid reading and could never read more than 5 pages at once. Once I was in 5th grade and school work had increased I started using a magnifying glass to help me read normal print. But all along I considered myself a normal child who needed to be a little closer to read.
2) Only If I knew This Growing Up.
I grow up in India in the days prior to the internet. I really did not know much about my condition and I am not sure my parents knew too much too.
- Ball sports that needed hand eye coordination or depth perception were not for me. I spent 3 years learning tennis, only to hope and pray that I could somehow hit the ball back, because I really did not see it till it was over the net. Instead swimming, running, rollerblading, cycling would have been great sports to pick up.
- I hated family movie nights: our television sets was not large and there was a myth that if you sit too close to the TV it spoils your eyes. Thus sitting 6 feet away from a 28 inch TV I could barely see anything. Only if I sat closer I would have enjoyed family movie night.
- Good white light would make it easy for me to read. It was not until I was in 7th grade that I discovered that a nice bight white light lamp made things so much easier to read.
- People often have a visual memory; they read something and have a visual image of it that they can remember forever. Well I did not have this but I do have an audio memory that is if I heard anything I would remember it.
3) Adapting to Everyday things
- Once I was a teenager I realized that there were things I could not do on my own even if I tried really hard, but what I could do was make good friends everywhere I go so they could help me.
- Driving – not only do I have the GPS but also carry paper direction and if possible ask for land marks to a new place I am going, this way I do not need to read road signs or house number.
- Reading menus at a fast food place or in a dimly lit restaurant: I always search for the menu online before going to a place and know what I am going to order. If for some reason I have not done this I ask the waitress for their special and just pick something from it.
- Reading fine print on anything. I use my smart phone and take a picture of the thing and then enlarge it to read it.
- Driving at night, I am not supposed to drive at night thus I will form a carpool group and offer to pay for gas if someone else is driving.
Finally parents of kids who may have this, I want to leave you with this, I have an MBA, I worked at KPMG Consulting a top 5 consulting firm and at Microsoft before I decided to start my own Eyewear company Taffy Eyewear . You child too will and can achieve anything they set out to do when you believe that they can.
Nitie Mehta is the founder of Taffy Eyewear: Eyeglasses specifically designed for kids
I saw this video and just had to share it (with the permission of the parents, of course!). The baby is 6 months old and has just gotten his first pair of glasses for myopia (nearsightedness / shortsightedness) and astigmatism. You can watch the moment he starts seeing everything around him – his pacifier falls right out of his mouth! It is such a stark reminder of how life-changing glasses can be for those who need them. His mother writes:
We found out that our baby needed glasses when he was 6 months old. We were seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist regularly because he was born 8 weeks premature but we had no suspicion of any vision issues. He was diagnosed with severe myopia (-12.00 in both eyes) as well as an astigmatism. On a side note, we felt so fortunate that we were forced to see the ophthalmologist and caught it so early. He developed perfectly with the glasses and I wonder what kind of delays he could have had if he was not seeing properly. By the way, the doctors believe that family genetics are to blame more than the prematurity.
As an aside, not every child takes to glasses so quickly. If your child doesn’t like their glasses at first, don’t despair, you are in good company. Zoe took 2 weeks before she’d leave hers on regularly, and that’s not uncommon. You can read our tips for helping the transition to wearing glasses.
I was thrilled to receive my copy of “I See, You See, We ALL See!” in the mail today. This is a board book written by Allison Joyce and Don McClain, inspired by Allison’s daughter Emma. Allison ran a Kickstarter this fall to raise the money to cover the production of the book, and the results are fantastic.
The book follows Emma and her big brother as Emma wakes up from her nap and gets ready to go play outside. Her brother helps her remember all the things she needs: shoes, jacket, hat, mittens, but most importantly, her glasses! The story line is simple, but it’s fun and engaging and very appropriate for toddlesr. My 3 year old daughter (the one that doesn’t wear glasses), has asked to read this book multiple times, and loves “helping” Emma figure out what all she needs to wear.
The illustrations by Amanda Beard are beautiful and fun and bright. We spend quite a bit of time looking through the pictures to find all of Emma’s outdoor items.
There are practically no books that are targeted at very young children in glasses. Allison’s book is a sturdy board book that’s going to stand up to the repeated readings that I’m sure will happen. The story and illustrations are right on for the age group.
Our community has backed a few Kickstarters already: Eye Power Kids Wear, I See, You See, WE ALL SEE, and of course, my book, Glasses! I think crowdfunding is a great way to encourage new products that can meet the needs of a smallish community like us. And now there’s a new Kickstarter that just launched and needs your help! Lenz Frenz are adorable plush animals that can hold your child’s glasses in two different ways. They are a great way to encourage kids to learn to always put their glasses away in a safe place. I talked to the project creator Molly to get more details on the project. – Ann Z
Question: Tell me about your son and why he needs glasses.
Molly: Lenz Frenz began with a tragic incident involving my son Liam. He was stabbed in the eye at school, by a bully, with a sharpened pencil, and a quarter inch of lead broke off and lodged in his eye. He underwent emergency surgery in order to save his eye. At that time, we weren’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know if he would lose his eye, have vision loss, or remedial pain.
Question: Where did the idea for Lenz Frenz come from?
Molly: Lenz Frenz is an idea that my son had. We had been putting play glasses on his stuffed animals, during his recovery, in hopes of easing his transition to wearing eyeglasses, in case he needed to wear them. Liam came up with the idea that his animals would eat his glasses and store them in their bellies. We looked for similar products but when we couldn’t find anything like that, we made our own, and Lenz Frenz was born!
Question: Tell us a little about Lenz Frenz – which I find super, super cute, by the way. How do they work, and what features do they have? What ages are they intended for?
Molly: Lenz Frenz is a plush animal that securely stores and wears eyeglasses on its face and inside its protective belly case. We have 14” animals that have a full size hard eyeglass case mounted inside of the Lenz Frenz. Your child can store their eyeglasses safely inside this protective case, or place them safely on the Lenz Frenz face in the special holder for your glasses! We thought this would be a fun idea for children to have the Lenz Frenz character wear their glasses (the child’s). It can hold two pairs of eyeglasses! Our smaller size is 6.5”, and it holds a contact lens case. It can be clipped to a backpack or purse. We love the idea that our characters can safely wear glasses just like your child does!
Question: What was the design process like in developing the Lenz Frenz?
Molly: The design process was fun. We played with stuffed animals! For our first prototype, we went to Build-a-Bear as a family and purchased a few different stuffed animal shells. We used existing eyeglass cases and mounted them inside. From there, we did a ton of research to find the right materials and better design methods. Then we moved on to speak with character artists and began designing the Lenz Frenz animals we see today. My kids had a lot of fun selecting animals and coloring them so we could see numerous color choices. We also spoke with a few eye experts; surgeons, optometrists, and Ann Z.— founder of Little Four Eyes.com! Everyone has been so helpful and supportive.
Question: How did you choose the animals?
Molly: We asked our neighborhood children what their favorite animals were. We showed them pictures and had them vote on their favorites. I think I stopped every child I saw with glasses on and asked them questions. We wanted to make sure we had animals that were neutral, animals that girls prefer, and animals that boys tend to prefer.
Question: Do you think you might add more animals in the future?
Molly: Yes, I hope so! I love our animals. They’re like family. I’d love to add a few more Lenz Frenz to our line.
Question: What are your goals for this project?
Molly: We hope to raise $20,000 in order to bring our 14” bear and our 6.5” puppy to market! If we raise more than that, we’ll use those funds to manufacture more of our Lenz Frenz animals.
Question: You’ll be doing a Kickstarter for funding. What made you choose funding the project this way?
Molly: I think Kickstarter is an amazing forum. It’s creative, rewarding, and real. These are real people with real products who have a passion, and they’re willing to work hard to bring their ideas to market. It’s hard to ask others for help, especially to ask for anything monetary. If you’re on Kickstarter, then you’ve worked hard to create something and get it out there. You’re not giving up. You’ve got a dream and you’re asking others to help invest in your dream, and Kickstarter is how you’re going to fund that dream.
Question: Anything else you’d like to add?
Molly: We hope that Lenz Frenz will be a fun training system for children to remember to put their glasses away. It began as a comfort for a child, many children are totally comfortable wearing glasses because they always have. However, children can always use a little motivation to take care of their glasses :-)
Thank you so much to Molly for answering our questions about Lenz Frenz!
Recently, UK retailer Tesco had some children’s shirts for sale that had a picture of an animal wearing glasses and the word “geek” or “nerd.” Quite a few parents wrote on Tesco’s wall to complain about the shirts linking glasses with a term that many people still feel is an insult. Tesco decided to remove those shirts, and you’d think that would be the end of that. But some newspapers picked up the story, and chose one mother’s post in particular and wrote articles about how that one mother had forced Tesco to remove a line of clothing. The story has taken off from there, though hardly any of the newspapers have bothered to talk with Aneliese, the mother whose post they cited, about any of it. (I’m not linking to any of the articles because the reporting was so very shoddy). Now I’m not new to the Internet, I know that people can be cruel and take things way out of context, but I’ve been horrified by the number of awful comments, tweets, and posts that Aneliese and her son have received due to this. Inside the Wendy House has a good post that talks about what happened (and actually talked with Aneliese about the incident, as have I).
Tesco is not the first retailer to have shirts that show a character in glasses with the work “geek” or “nerd”, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. The question shows up a lot in the Little Four Eyes facebook group. It’s always leads to an interesting and spirited debate, and the community seems to be pretty evenly split on the issue. On the one hand, as many parents point out, “geek” and “nerd” are no longer the insults that they used to be, in fact, they can be seen as cool and the words should be taken as compliments. Any thing that portrays glasses as being cool, those parents say, is something we should celebrate. Other parents note that “geek” and “nerd” may be cool for some, but they’re still a stereotype with specific associations that are not all positive, such as being introverted and socially awkward. For those parents, glasses are something that help or at least protect, our children’s vision, they don’t define our children’s personalities, for better or for worse.
I hope everyone can agree that insulting a mother for giving a retailer feedback about their merchandise is completely uncalled for unnecessary, and frankly, really awful.
I should note that I consider myself a nerd (I’m not cool enough to be a geek), and that I’ve been nerdy all my life. It wasn’t a label that I liked as a kid or in high school, but now 20-some years later, it’s a label that I will proudly wear. I also wear glasses, but even when I wore contacts, I was quite a nerd.
I do think there are a lot of problems, though, with associating “geek” and “nerd” with wearing glasses. I honestly cannot think of another personality stereotype (and let’s be honest, whether you see geek/nerd as good or bad, it’s a stereotype) that is associated with something that needs to be worn for medical reasons. The need to wear glasses is almost always because of structural issues with the eye – this has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence or how well they do interacting with others.
It bothers me because while I’m happy with being labeled a nerd, I know plenty of people who would not be happy with that characterization. Some of those people wear glasses. I look at Zoe, and I wonder what she’ll want to be known as when she gets a bit older. Will she want to be the nerdy girl? Or will she want to be arty, or athletic, or will she want people to not label her at all? Who she decides to be should not have anything to do with the fact that she’s hyperopic with moderate astigmatism.
On a less personal note, I have written before about the problems that can arise when children aren’t treated for vision issues. I hear from a lot of parents when they first learn their child needs glasses, and many of those parents are filled with fears (I know I was). Some of those fears have to do with general vision and glasses-related issues, but there’s also the fear that your child will be seen and treated differently once they have glasses. Glasses for your child are hard enough to deal with, even without the fears, they’re expensive and frustrating. I’d love to lessen any of the stress that comes with having a young child in glasses – that’s part of why I started this blog, and that’s part of what’s behind my dislike of the association of glasses and nerd/geekiness. Why add to the potential reasons why a parent might not follow through and make sure their child needs glasses? Not that I think this alone will solve the problem, but I don’t think it helps.
All that being said, there is a lot of evidence that the fears we have as parents of our child being treated differently or seen as less attractive because of their glasses are not always borne out. I don’t want to dismiss anyone who has actually experienced their child being bullied or teased because of their glasses, but there have been studies that have found that glasses really aren’t seen as a bad thing by other kids:
- One study asked kids in glasses and their parents a series of questions about their quality of life including socially. It asked the kids questions like “are you teased because of your eyes?” And it asked parents questions like, “do people treat your child differently because of his or her vision?” The kids’ answers were the same as other kids their age without glasses. They did not report being teased because of their glasses. The parents on the other hand were very worried about their child being treated poorly.
- Another study had kids look at pictures of other kids, some with glasses, some without, and asked which kids they’d rather play with, and which ones were the most honest, or smart, or better looking, or better at sports. According to that study, there was no difference in how kids saw other kids in glasses, except that they thought they looked smarter.
Essentially, what our kids experience because of their glasses is probably not as bad as we worry about.
So what do you think? Is it a good thing that glasses are associated with the newly cool nerd and geek identities? Or is it something that bothers you? (I don’t think I need to add this, but please be kind in your comments, I think this is one of those topics where people can disagree with very good reasons on all sides of the issue).