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Frequently asked question: what does my child see? A few vision simulators with caveats

July 28, 2014 1 comment

There’s a cliche of “looking through your eyes” as a way of trying to see the world as someone else might. It’s usually not meant literally, of course, but  it reflects our desire to understand how others see things. That’s certainly true when you learn that your child has a vision problem.  It’s very common to wonder how your child had been seeing.

what do you see4

Very young children don’t have the words to tell us what they want for dinner, let alone how they see.  Even older, more verbal kids have difficulty explaining how things look. It wasn’t until Zoe was 4 that she started telling me that things were fuzzy without her glasses. But the first time I really understood how she saw was after a trip to the science museum where she visited a human development exhibit.  They had glasses you could put on that approximated how babies’ vision develops in their first few months. “Mom, babies see really blurry they’re first month. Then at 2 months, they see the way I see without my glasses. By a year, they see how I see with glasses.”  Finally, I could put on glasses and see the world the way Zoe does with glasses.

If you can’t make it to a human development exhibit, there are quite a few online vision simulators that claim to let you see how another person sees, most are based on a person’s glasses prescription.  Of course, there are a lot of problems with even the best of these.  In fact:

A glasses prescription will not tell you exactly how a person sees

A glasses prescription will only tell you what shape the lenses on a pair of glasses or contacts should be in order to have the best possible corrected vision.  This is based on how much the shape of the eye differs from what it should be to see clearly (something called the refractive error).  Some (not all) of the reasons why someone may see differently than their glasses prescription implies include:

  • Hyperopic children can often compensate for much of their hyperopia, allowing them to see relatively clearly.  This does cause eye strain and can pull the eyes out of alignment, which is why glasses are still important.
  • Amblyopia is when a person does not see clearly even when glasses or contacts are correcting for the full refractive error.  Generally this is due to the brain suppressing the vision from one or both eyes.  It can be caused by the eyes not lining up, an eye having an injury, or one eye having a much stronger refractive error than the other.
  • There may be other problems in the visual system (either in the eye structures, the optic nerve, or the brain) that is causing vision problems.

One very simplified way of looking at it is imagining the visual system as a camera.  The lens of the camera may not be in focus, that’s the part that glasses can fix that.  But there are a lot of other components of the camera that may not be functioning correctly, and any one of them can lead to unclear vision.

Visual Acuity

The measurement that best describes how clearly a person sees is their visual acuity.  It is usually expressed as two numbers, like 20/20 or 6/6.  The first number tells you the distance at which the measurement was taken (20 or 10 is in feet, 6 or 3 is in meters).  The second number tells you how far away a person with good vision could be to see what you see clearly.

For example, the visual acuity of my left eye without glasses is around 20/200.  That means that what I see clearly at 20 feet away, a person with good vision would see clearly at 200 feet away.  (I do not see terribly well in that eye).  There’s a conversion chart here that converts between metric and US measurements as well as giving reading performance for those acuities.

If you’d like to see what a specific visual acuity looks like, there are a couple of options:

Wolfram Alpha will show you a simulation of any acuity you type in.  Simply type in the visual acuity with the word “vision”: in this case “20/200 vision” (if you don’t include the word “vision” it’ll just calculate the fraction for you).

20-200

Wolfram Alpha’s simulation of 20/200 visual acuity. I typed “20/200 vision” in the search box to get this.

Fork in the Road Low Vision Simulators are vision simulators that you can purchase and wear to see the effects of different eye diseases.  Their cataract simulators demonstrate reduced visual acuity.  On their website, you can see examples of the blur simulation for 20/80 (6/24), 20/200 (6/60), 20/400 (6/120), and 20/800 (6/240).  Scroll through the page to see the different acuities.

 Vision Simulators based on Prescription

As I mentioned, vision simulators based on a glasses prescription are flawed at best.   Even the very good ones will only show you an approximation of how someone with no other vision issues would see with that prescription.  That said, the simulators can give you a feel for how strong a prescription is and how your child might be seeing without glasses.

  • Eyeland Web Tools – there are different simulators for different refractive errors.  Many children have a spherical (hyperopia or myopia) component as well as an astigmatism component.  I like that these allow you to see how those different components affect vision.
  • Sehschärfen Simulator – this site is in German, but is still pretty straight forward to use.  One of the features is that it changes the simulation based on a person’s age, so that the effects of hyperopia (farsightedness / longsightedness) are reduced for young children.  This means if your child has a + prescription, you may think from this simulator that your child shouldn’t need glasses.  This simulator will not show you how much eye strain a child will have due to hyperopia.
    1. Enter your child’s age in the “Alter” box
    2. Enter the spherical and cylinder amounts
    3. Click “Berechnen”
    4. The top image is the simulated vision, the bottom image is what would be considered “normal” vision.

Other visual simulations of eye diseases

  • Fork in the Road sells vision simulators for many eye diseases resulting in low vision.  This includes cataracts (linked above), glaucoma, and more.
  • Inclusive Design Kit from the University of Cambridge also has a simulator for many vision problems.
  • Causes of Color includes a vision simulator for various types of color blindness and cataracts.

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heartbreaking photo of glasses meet garbage disposal

July 22, 2014 Leave a comment

 

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photo credit Gina Glorioso Rendall

Sometimes you see a photo, and read the explanation and your heart just sinks:

“Totally heartbroken – my one-year-old dropped his glasses down the sink and they went through the garbage disposal.”

Posted to the Little Four Eyes facebook group, shared here with permission.


My book is published

July 10, 2014 3 comments

I’ve posted a bit about the children’s book about glasses that I’ve been working on – it’s one that I held a Kickstarter project to raise the funding for.  Well I’m thrilled to say that the book has been published and is now available for purchase.  The whole experience has been fascinating, eye opening, way outside my comfort zone, but in the end, a really good experience. cover final The project was largely inspired by the comments I’d gotten on the photo gallery page.  I had figured the photo gallery would be great for parents to see the range of glasses available for kids, but I hadn’t expected that parents would show their kids the gallery, and that kids would feel better about their glasses after seeing other kids like them in glasses.  I also remember how much Zoe loved looking at books with pictures of kids, and I wanted her to see kids who wore glasses just like she did.  And I was also a bit sick of books that talked about kids who hated glasses or who were teased about their glasses.  Those are definitely good stories to have, but they didn’t reflect Zoe’s experiences at all.

After waiting for 5 years for someone else to write a book that featured photos of kids in glasses, I finally decided that I was going to have to do it.  And luckily, I knew that my friend Kristin from Peeps Eyewear was just as interested as I was in helping kids in glasses, and since she had published a children’s book, she knew a lot more about the process and had the contacts to actually make it work.  She agreed to be my publisher, for which I am so very thankful. I’m thankful, too, for so many of you who backed the Kickstarter or shared the project or gave me support (I wrote a bit about Kickstarter here and here).  I was able to get funding to cover most of the up front costs (photo shoot, graphic design, printing, etc). We held the photo shoot for the book in January.  The daycare center that my children attend was gracious enough to let us use their classroom (with fun colorful toys, and huge windows to let in the sunshine) for the photo shoot.

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Our photographer, Heide, was simply amazing.  She worked hard and had a fantastic rapport with the kids.  And the kids were all amazing, too!  It was honestly a lot of fun –  just watching these kids play and have fun, and watching Heide work her magic to get some amazing shots, and meeting the parents and hearing all about their stories. Then came more work – choosing photos, working with the graphic designer, trying to get the print run to be true to color, getting an ISBN for the book… all sorts of things that I had never, ever dealt with before, so again, I’m thankful for Kristin’s help.

It took longer than anyone of us had expected, especially since we had to not only produce the book, but also the other rewards for the Kickstarter backers.  But now I can hold all that hard work in my hands!

that's my hand...holding my book!

that’s my hand…holding my book!

I have to say one more huge thank you to all of you out there for your support and inspiration for this book.  I don’t know how I can thank you all enough.

 


Reader request: anyone with a child diagnosed with CHED?

Is there anyone out there with a child diagnosed with CHED (Congenital hereditary endothelial dystrophy), either recessive or dominant?   Another parent is really hoping to connect others facing the same thing, as it’s a rare disorder, their having trouble finding others out there.

Leave a comment, or drop me an email (ann@shinypebble.com) if you would like to connect.

 


Children’s Eye Foundation 2014 photo contest – Best Buddies to See You Through

May 17, 2014 3 comments

It’s again time for the annual Children’s Eye Foundation photo contest for their calendar.  The Children’s Eye Foundation  is the foundation of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS).

Take a look at this year's calendar.

Take a look at the 2014 calendar.

The theme for this year’s photo contest is “Best Buddies to See You Through“.  Once you submit a photo, people can vote on their favorites.  The top 10 vote-getters will win a camera, and a panel of judges will choose from all submissions the photos that are featured in the calendar.  Voting is open until August 31, 2014.

A number of kids from our community are featured in the calendar each year (of course they are – our kids are super cute!).

Take a look at the full rules for the contest, and submit your photo.   If you do submit a photo, leave a comment here letting us know which photo you submitted.

You can also vote for your favorite photo!  You can vote for one photo once each day.

The third annual Great Glasses Play Day!

May 1, 2014 2 comments

The third annual Great Glasses Play Day is just around the corner!  I’ll be celebrating in Minneapolis, but there’s a whole lot of events this year and even if there are none near you, we have many ways for you to join the celebrations!

GGPD-infographic-2014

Many thanks to Jessica Butler of Eye Power Kid’s Wear for the graphic!

Great Glasses Play Day 2014 updates!

March 13, 2014 1 comment

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.

From last year's Portland event!

A scene from last year’s Portland event!

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.

So where are the events?Ann Zawistoski's photo.

Check out the Great Glasses Play Day website to see the most up to date map.  We’re still in the planning phase, so you’ll want to check back for the full details.
Don’t see a location near you?  You can sign up to organize one in your area!
First, check out the map of all the events! This is still a tentative map, with more

T-shirts!

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!


Wonderful video of a baby getting glasses for the first time

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

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.


Is it a good thing for glasses to be associated with geeks and nerds?

February 5, 2014 2 comments

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).


Your stories: Her First and Won’t be Her Last

February 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Tara from Happy Soul Project kindly sent in this post reflecting on a year since her little girl had eye surgery.  She describes the fears and uncertainty that we all felt when we first learned our child or children had vision issues.  This was originally posted on her blog, Happy Soul Project, and is reposted here with her permission.  Oh, and if her daughter looks familiar, you may have seen her featured in the Huffington Post article about what makes you different is what makes you beautiful.  – Ann Z

Her first and won’t be her last

This time last year I was on night 1 of at least 4 or 5 of absolutely no sleep…This time tomorrow I was desperately trying to look into my 5 week old baby girl’s eyes still kinda hoping for a miraculous miracle…This time the following day I was handing my tiny baby to a surgeon and literally collapsing and choking in fear…This time the day after I was learning to put in and care for a minuscule contact and instructed to patch my daughter’s “good eye” half her waking hours – Awesome to decipher for a newborn right?

This time last year was just filled with the unknown…

Would the surgery be successful? Would she survive the post surgery complications? Would the plan of care after even work? Would her other eye need surgery? Would she need glasses?

1

Nothing in the world prepares you for hearing the news that your child, let alone your newborn needs surgery…And no matter how many parents you seek out who have been there before, articles you read or sit down chats with the surgeons, the absolute feeling of helplessness is bound to overtake you…

I’ve been sitting here this morning reading blogs from last year, sobbing if really you must know…Remembering how very terrified I was…With each surgery she’s had since, those feelings return but the first one will be forever etched in my mind…

It was the first time I had to see her in one of those ridiculous hospital gowns, way too big to fit any 5 week old baby…It was the first time the clock absolutely dragged & I watched my husband pound donut after donut, nervously waiting for an update…And it was the first time I felt nothing but utter gratefulness, when she was finally put back into my arms…It was her first and it won’t be her last but the feelings surrounding this surgery will be with me always…

I wonder if every year around the time of her surgeries I will reflect on them as I have these last few days…I wonder if the tears will still come like they have while writing this…I wonder if the fear will still kinda get caught in my throat when I think back to how desperately I was begging God to keep her here with us…And I wonder if I will always be as awed with how far she’s come…

4     5

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I wrote this a year ago before her surgery,

“So, as I learn to let go of what I can’t control- I realized that all that really matters is how I live my life & teach my babies to live theirs…I can’t control that Noal is a busy boy, has my short little legs & has my sassy personality…I can’t control that Reid was born with Down Syndrome, had a hole in her heart or needs eye surgery…I can only control how I handle what has been given to me- How I hope to raise Noal & Reid to be loving, kind, open minded, grateful & Happy Little Souls…At the end of the day this is what I truly believe to be important.”

And let’s just say it’s been one hell of a year learning to let go and realize what’s important & I truly think I have been a pretty damn good student of just that…

To read about my thoughts hours before Pip’s first surgery Click HERE
and to read about Pip’s Eye Surgery/Complications & the Outcome Click HERE

Tara is a quirky wanna-be Writer/Blogger, adoring/annoyed wife, minivan mum to 2 hooligans, one who just happens to have Down syndrome & most importantly a Happy Soul…She is the founder of Happy Soul Project {www.happysoulproject.com} & is currently working on her first book. You can reach Tara at t@happysoulproject.com


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