Working in the health care field, I have always been fairly on top of everything healthcare related when it comes to my kids. I probably error on the side of doing too much. I schedule their well-child visits within a week of their birthday and had my oldest into the dentist the month he turned two. Heck, when my oldest needed to see an ENT, I came prepared with copies of all of his medical records as well as a complete history written out, including dates of medications. (Modern technology made this much easier.)
But an optometry check? Meh.
I asked his doctor – he said he would need to get his eyes checked before he started preschool. I looked up signs to watch for – excessive clumsiness and running into things did not send off any flags for me. He hit all of his milestones and was a happy, smart kid.
Everything was fine.
Then in early May, KidSight – an AMAZING program that I will talk more about here in a minute – came into my kid’s preschool. About a week and a half later, I got a big manila envelope in the mail. In it was a picture of his eyes as well as a letter saying he was flagged for hyperopia (far-sightedness) and anisometropia (a difference in focus between his eyes). The letter stated that 90% of the kids who were flagged ended up needing vision correction. They recommended we get him in to be seen by an eye doctor.
When I got the letter, I was about 8 weeks pregnant and in the thick of morning sickness. I saw this as a HUGE inconvenience. Certainly my child was in the 10% who were fine. I put off making the appointment until the end of the month.
To my utter shock, we were told he was severely far-sighted and probably should have been in glasses since he was a baby. My pregnant, hormonal self immediately started crying as she started to explain things I had written off as three-year old behavior. (More on that in a minute).
I have to say, the team at Children’s Eye Center in Cedar Rapids were beyond amazing. They helped us pick out glasses that would work best for his super-thick prescription and age. They even helped calm me down. When I called in a few days later with questions I had forgotten to ask, the gal said to me, “I’ve been in your shoes – you’re feeling like the worst mother right now. But, they caught it fairly early and you’re going to help him now!”
She was right – the week or so following his diagnosis, I struggled with some of the most intense mom guilt that I had experienced over four years.How in the world did I not notice that he couldn’t see? He had only known the world as a big, blurry mess. I was on top of every other specialist – how was I not on top of this one?
So, I am here to tell you what I have learned:
1. Get your kids eyes checked earlier, rather than later.
In the state of Iowa, you can get your kids eyes checked for free before they turn a year old. I am now planning on taking my 20 month old in next month for a check. Baby #3 will be getting check before he or she turns a year old.
2. Iowa KidSight
Iowa KidSight is an amazing program through the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. They have a wealth of resources available to help with pediatric eye sight screenings
3. Watch for the signs.
There are the classics we all know about: Squinting, covering an eye, excessive clumsiness, or running into things. Things I was not aware of included: Excessive fidgeting, excessive touching of things, or short attention span. Now, these last ones can easily be written off as a toddler being a toddler, but they can also be signs that they can’t see.
4. If you have vision insurance, put your kids on when they’re born.
Thankfully, we did this with both of our kids, so when the unexpected happened and one of them needed glasses, they were covered well. Our insurance took the cost of my son’s glasses down from $550 to $150 with top-notch, durable lenses and transitions.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
Knowing what I know now, a lot of things make sense. For instance, he has never been into looking at books. Now, I know it’s because he couldn’t see them. He also had this intense need to touch things – it was like he couldn’t help himself. I now know he was using his other senses to make up for the fact that he couldn’t see very well. Finally, he had a tendency to look at something that should hold his attention, but run off to do something else after only a few seconds. I now know, it was not interesting to him because it was blurry.
He’s had his glasses for just a couple of days and we’ve already noticed a huge difference in him. He is calmer and points more things out to us. I can’t wait to see how he blossoms as his brain gets used to seeing things in focus.
Has your child been to an eye doctor yet?
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