What par­ents need to know about chil­dren and glasses

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - LIFE - By Lindsey M. Roberts

Since my son got his first pair of glasses when he was 2 years old, we’ve had some in­ter­est­ing, and at times har­row­ing, ad­ven­tures. There were the metal frames that bent side­ways, the lost ac­etate frames, and, oh, did you know that if your child wres­tles with his dad while wear­ing thick lenses that stick out of the frames a smidgen, he could slice open his eye­brow and need stitches? Yeah, me nei­ther.

My son is 6 years old now, and we’ve come a long way in this de­part­ment. To help other par­ents nav­i­gate the world of glasses with young chil­dren, I spoke with sev­eral ex­perts. Here are their sug­ges­tions for a smoother ride.

Get a vi­sion check early.

Chil­dren should be ex­am­ined be­tween the ages of 6 and 12 months, says Stacy Hill, a clin­i­cal ad­junct fac­ulty mem­ber at Pa­cific Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Op­tom­e­try. “If the doc­tor finds no con­cerns at that visit, then the child should be re-ex­am­ined at 3 years old and again be­fore en­ter­ing school,” she adds. If the visit isn’t cov­ered by in­sur­ance, the In­fan­tSEE pro­gram pro­vides free eye ex­am­i­na­tions to chil­dren up to 12 months old.

Vi­sion is more than 20/ 20.

“If your child is see­ing well but is strug­gling in school or has at­ten­tion/ be­hav­ioral prob­lems,” Hill says, “there is a strong chance that there is a vis­ual skill deficit that needs to be ad­dressed with glasses or vi­sion ther­apy.” Th­ese deficits could in­clude fo­cus­ing is­sues, dou­ble vi­sion, stra­bis­mus, “lazy eye” and vis­ual-mo­tor prob­lems such as clum­si­ness. Vi­sion ther­apy is like phys­i­cal ther­apy, us­ing lenses, prisms, fil­ters and other tools un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a doc­tor to im­prove vis­ual skills. For an eval­u­a­tion, look for a lo­cal de­vel­op­men­tal and pe­di­atric op­tometrist at COVD.org.

Think about re­place­ment and re­pair poli­cies.

Ac­cept the fact that your kids will lose or break their glasses, and you will need to have a plan for when that hap­pens. Some shops sell re­place­ment frames for glasses if you pur­chased them there orig­i­nally. Other eye cen­ters may of­fer a one-time re­place­ment pair of frames for half-off. In­ex­pen­sive glasses might be eas­ier to re­place, while high­er­priced glasses might come with bet­ter re­place­ment and re­pair poli­cies — but not al­ways. Check all poli­cies to make sure you’re com­fort­able with them be­fore you buy. Hav­ing a backup pair is also nice, if money al­lows.

Frame ma­te­rial op­tions.

When it comes to the ma­te­rial for the frame, “pick your poi­son,” says Richard Golden, a pe­di­atric oph­thal­mol­o­gist at Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal in Colum­bus, Ohio. “Metal frames are more adjustable and they’re lighter. The down­side is that they can bend, but they don’t break as eas­ily. Plas­tic frames don’t get bent out of shape as eas­ily, but the hinges on them are less flex­i­ble so that they can break.” For much younger kids, Golden rec­om­mends frames that are made out of a molded ny­lon ma­te­rial. “They don’t have an ac­tual hinge on them so they’re com­pletely flex­i­ble,” he says. Mi­raflex, Dilli Dalli and Flexon are some of the brands that of­fer th­ese frames.

Know when to wear the glasses.

“I think ev­ery­one as­sumes you need to wear them all the time, and it re­ally just de­pends on the pre­scrip­tion,” says Me­gan E. Collins, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of oph­thal­mol­ogy at the Wilmer Eye In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Hospi­tal in Bal­ti­more. “Some kids are near­sighted, and glasses are just for see­ing things far away; some kinds are far­sighted, and they need them just to read.” Kids with strong pre­scrip­tions may need to wear them all the time, es­pe­cially if they’re help­ing to cor­rect for stra­bis­mus, or eye mis­align­ment. Spe­cific glasses for spe­cific times also means that if your child plays a com­pet­i­tive sport, sports glasses, such as Rec Specs — even for pre­scrip­tion gog­gles — are a nice op­tion.

GODONG/UIG

Let­ting your child have a voice in the fi­nal de­ci­sion will mean bet­ter care for and use of his or her glasses.

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