From the moment I first saw them on my computer screen, I fell in love with my daughter's gorgeous eyes. They still melt my heart when they twinkle with impish mirth to make me giggle or show me with a flat stare that I've made a parenting mistake that needs reparation. After adopting her, those eyes became even more of a focal point for me, because eye contact is a good sign that a child is bonding with her adoptive parents.
You would think that with the significance of her eyes to both her and me, their health would have taken higher priority. I have worn glasses since I was twelve, yet it never crossed my mind that my daughter might need to be examined by a Doctor of Optometry.
I had her examined at a young age for everything else — hearing issues, motor skills, speech development — you name it. Yet somehow I never questioned her vision or her eyes, despite the absence of her genetic eye health history — and the fact that even with genetic eye health history, I wouldn’t be able to assess the health of her eyes. She regularly looked me in the eye and smiled, so obviously her vision was just fine, right?
Wrong — sort of.
It was my husband who noticed that she was squinting every time she watched TV. So, at the age of three, we took her to a Doctor of Optometry for an eye exam. I was actually surprised to learn that she was not too young for the exam, because it is recommended that kids have their first eye exams between the ages of six and nine months. For a toddler, a Doctor of Optometry uses pictures of recognizable items instead of letters.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the Doctor of Optometry told me that Baby Girl was not near-sighted or far-sighted, but quickly had the wind sucked out of me when she went on to say that what she did have was fairly severe astigmatism in each eye that would require glasses. I felt awful. Not because she needed glasses, but because I hadn't recognized a problem myself.
However, I'm not alone. In a recent survey, 60% of parents professed that they would know if their child had a vision problem, yet many children with vision concerns show no symptoms. ONE in FOUR school-aged kids have some sort of vision trouble that can ONLY be detected by a proper eye exam. That's TWENTY FIVE PER CENT, people! With 80 percent of a child's learning based on vision, I'm so glad we found out about Baby Girl's need for glasses before she started school. One-in-six children diagnosed with a learning disability really only have a correctable vision problem.
Scary, but only if you do nothing about it.
Thankfully, with her glasses and annual examinations, my daughter no longer suffers any issues with her eyes. Even if your child has had an initial eye exam and had 20/20 vision, here are some other reasons to continue having annual examinations:
If your child is demonstrating any of the following signs and symptoms, then that's an even more important reason to book an eye exam with a Doctor of Optometry as soon as possible:
So what are you waiting for? Given these stats, there really is no excuse to delay taking your children for regular eye exams. Doctors of Optometry provide full-service eye care, including a thorough examination for vision and eye health, the sale and professional fitting of glasses and contact lenses, and even treatment for eye irritations, infections, and disorders.
Your children depend on you to keep them healthy — including their eyes. Don't let them down.
For families who partake in the fun of Halloween, it's a great time of year full of excitement.
However, for many families with foster children, children who were adopted, or children with special needs, it can be a difficult and even traumatic month, climaxing with a night of real emotional horrors caused by any number of reasons. Sensory issues can be exacerbated by costumes that feel different than everyday clothes, spooky decorations that make noises or unexpectedly move, even other kids running about the neighbourhood screaming and laughing can all trigger negative reactions. Children who were recently adopted internationally may not even know what Halloween is or understand that it's make-believe fun instead of terrifyingly real. Language barriers or developmental delays may also prevent them from understanding explanations and assurances.
In order to make Halloween as enjoyable as possible for your child, here are some tips that I've learned over the past five years from my own experiences and those of other adoptive or foster parents:
If your children go into panic mode when they are cold, find a fuzzy, full-body costume that's one size larger than usual to wear extra layers of clothes inside. If your children are triggered by anything touching their face, step away from the masks!
Wearing their costumes often before Halloween events or trick-or-treating gives children time to get used to the feeling of the costume and become comfortable with the "alternate personality" their costume portrays. Some children fear dress-up because they worry their disguise may cause their parents to no longer recognize them and subsequently abandon them or stop caring for them—remember, these are often children with fight-or-flight coping skills who don't always rationalize their own fears. Assure your little ghost or goblin by name that you will still lovingly care for them dressed as Spiderman, Princess Merida, or a minion, and give them a hug while they're in costume to demonstrate.
Halloween isn't only about the costume, so don't ruin the fun by insisting on one. If somebody shelling-out asks your child where her costume is, simply explain—with a pointed stink-eye—that your child took it off.
Let your children see all the different costumes and decorations ahead of time and ask whatever questions they want, and assure them it's all make-believe. My daughter still gets nervous with the blood-and-guts type of decorations, so we look at them quickly or bypass that section entirely.
Talk about what route you will walk, how long you will stay out trick-or-treating and if there are any specific houses your child really wants to visit. Ensure your children know that they can decide to come home at any time. If they aren't doing trick-or-treating, discuss with them what that is and let them know many kids will be ringing your door, if you are shelling out. Assure them that nobody is coming to your home to take them or hurt them and give them the option of helping shell-out or avoiding it altogether. If your children are really worried or upset about numerous visitors coming to your door, don't bother shelling out—your children's comfort in their own home is your priority.
If your child is new to the country or can't yet communicate fluently, limit the number of Halloween events you attend, if any. On my daughter's first Halloween, we dressed her in a snuggly-warm elephant costume because she had two elephant stuffies that were already familiar to her. Despite her ability to walk, we carried her to only three neighbours' homes, the ones that she already met and who were familiar with our circumstances.
I can't stress this enough. While YOU may love Halloween, or simply want your child to maximize their positive childhood experiences and memories, your child may be feeling all sorts of negative things at any point during the Halloween season. If your child doesn't want to carve pumpkins—don't. If your child wants to leave a Halloween party ten minutes after arriving—do it.
Your child may not have the language skills or emotional self-awareness to tell you exactly what is wrong, so watch for altered behavior as Halloween approaches.
Remember there are no rules when it comes to your family's traditions, so do what works best for your child. Halloween comes every October 31st, so if something doesn't fit with your child's comfort level this year, you can always try to re-introduce it next year or whenever your child is ready. The most important part of Halloween is to have FUN, but it's not fun for any child to be pressured or cajoled into doing something or wearing outfits that they just aren't comfortable with. Try to use Halloween as a bonding time for your children to share their feelings with you, and you to demonstrate your love, support, and understanding of them by respecting those feelings.
Have a Happy Halloween!
Hi! Thanks for checking out my blog. You may also want to check out this post with more tips on managing Halloween with special needs children, or you may like this post with ten tips on what to say to families who have adopted.
Imagine, if you will, coming home and finding the police at your residence. Your heart would start to pound, you'd run inside as fast as you could to ensure your loved ones and home are safe.
Fear. Anxiety. Dread.
Imagine now how you would feel if you entered your home to find medical personnel treating your teenaged son because the police had pepper-sprayed him.
Shock. Disbelief. Confusion.
Keep imagining how you would feel if you then were told that your son was pepper-sprayed for the sole reason that he had entered his own home through an unlocked side door, and a neighbour, who didn't recognize him as a part of your family, had called the police to report a possible break-in.
Anger. Frustration. Outrage.
Imagine if you asked the police why they had done this, and the response was that your son had become upset, belligerent, possibly even combative, when they questioned his presence IN HIS OWN HOME. Imagine how your son would have felt to hear those questions, along with the most damaging of all: If you live here, why isn't your picture on the mantel, like those other three kids' pictures are?
Sadness. Betrayal. Indignation.
Imagine your bewilderment at how this situation escalated into a tragedy of errors - you had just moved to this neighbourhood three months earlier, you didn't know very many neighbours, they didn't recognize your son when he entered your home and simply assumed he was breaking-in and the cops made glaring incorrect assumptions about your son's belonging in your home and family, refusing to believe him because his ID still had your previous address on it, no doubt a teenager's procrastinated oversight.
Embarrassment. Defeat. Heartbreak.
Are you wondering yet how the HELL this could even happen?
So am I, but it did.
Ahhh, yes, now we know how this happened. It's crystal clear, the neighbour assumed a black teen entering the side door of a white person's home must be a criminal. The police made the same assumption. They tapped in to his deepest feelings of painful segregation by pointing out his photo was not on the family mantel, thereby provoking his inner wounds — let's face it, he's obviously not in foster care at 18 because he's had an easy life of love, affection and acceptance — and then they pepper-sprayed him to control his reactive behavior.
It's what parents of black sons and daughters, whether they are white or black themselves, worry about constantly.
It's also what trans-racial and interracial families fear — mistaken identity because our children don't "match" us.
The solution to this problem is obviously complex and humanity-encompassing.
In the meantime, here are a few steps I personally take to try to avoid ANYONE questioning my black daughter being a part of our home and our family:
1. I carry a copy of her adoption order in my purse with me. Everywhere. I. Go. I am trying to convince Huzbo to do the same on his smartphone — I'm pretty sure DeShawn Currie's story will persuade him.
2. I keep pictures of my daughter in my wallet, on my phone and in almost every room of my house. Until now, I had only done this out of extreme love and pride, but I see clearly now that this can also serve another purpose. I wonder if this scenario would have played out very differently if a photo of DeShawn had been sitting on that family mantel along with the Tyler's three white bio-kids?
3. When she is old enough to do so, I will ensure my daughter also carries valid ID, with her correct address and name on it, along with a copy of her adoption order. Just in case.
4. Pray, hope, keep educating myself and keep writing about it. Pray and hope that my daughter is never in a situation where mistaken identity could cause her harm. Pray for DeShawn Currie and his parents. Pray for the countless black men and women who have died or been harmed due to racial profiling. Pray and hope that police officers receive sensitivity education so that they understand that when they accuse an innocent black person of a crime for no reason other than the fact that the black person is black, then the black person is going to feel the sting of racist profiling and get upset, but the police should not be allowed to use that as justification for using undue force or violence against a black person.
Most of all, I will pray and hope that our society's laws, rules and mentalities are changed enough to one day make our world a place where my daughter and her children and grandchildren along with other black men and women don't have to worry about the racism of police, neighbours, teachers or anyone else they come in contact with.