We like to celebrate every little thing in our family. I once threw a potty party, complete with pizza, cupcakes, and balloons, when my youngest said goodbye to diapers. The start of Junior Kindergarten was another exciting set of celebrations. First back pack...check...first ride on the school bus...check...first visit to the Optometrist...check.
I booked her first visit with a Doctor of Optometry to coincide with her first week in JK. It was strictly a routine visit in my mind; she had never exhibited any signs of vision problems. She always looked us right in the eye, we read books, we coloured, and we loved watching movies. There was no indication that she was struggling to see.
As we headed into her first appointment, I reminded her of how this was an exciting part of being in JK and we chatted about the neat tools the Optometrist was going to use to make sure her eyes were working - just like they did with her older brother. I sat in the corner giving her the thumbs up and expected to walk out in a few minutes.
My concern began when she couldn’t identify all the letters, as I knew she was confident in her alphabet. Next, she was shown pictures and when the Optometrist asked her to identify a photo of a house, she looked right at me nervously, shrugged her shoulders and said “I can’t see it.” It was the very first time she had used those words. I slumped back in the chair as the reality slowly made its way through my body; she can’t see properly and I, her mother, had no idea. What I did not know was how common this is. 1 in 4 children has some form of vision problem and they need to use their vision to learn as almost 80% of learning is visual. This is why it is so important that children have their eyes checked by a Doctor of Optometry to ensure that any vision limitations are caught early on.
It turns out, she was almost always focusing out of one eye instead of using both. The other eye was not seeing clearly. There were no signs at all that we could have picked up on and the Optometrist confirmed that this was not unusual; often parents are totally unaware their child is having trouble seeing. She learned to cope (like many kids with vision problems do), using one eye for almost everything and no one had a clue.
Eventually, the Optometrist explained, her vision would have deteriorated even further. The one eye doing all the work would have tired and she may have started struggling in school. This is the exact reason parents are encouraged to bring their children in to visit a Doctor of Optometry by the time they reach school age. The great thing is it is covered by our Ontario Health Card (OHIP) so there is no out of pocket cost to get checked.
We were lucky, we caught it in time!
After a follow up visit to ensure we had the right prescription, it was time to choose her glasses. This was the most exciting part! “You get to choose your very own glasses!” I exclaimed “I know!” she squealed back with anticipation.
I eyed the wall containing the kid’s glasses. As I searched for my favourite, she grabbed a pair, put them on, and smiled at herself in the mirror. My honest first reaction was no, I don’t like them. Too bright, too flashy not my style, I thought to myself. I pulled down a pair that were a little more reserved and coerced her to try them. She put them on to please me, looked at me and frowned. She didn’t like them. She then grabbed her first choice and put them back on and her smile lit up the room. I stood back and watched her beaming in her bright red glasses and reminded myself: this isn’t about me. This is her day. Her choice. Her glasses.
I held my breath after I quietly asked “how much are these?” I hoped her choice wasn't pricey. It was then that I was told about the Eye See…Eye Learn program and found out that my daughter's very first pair of glasses would come at no cost to me. I instantly felt a huge weight lifted. I didn’t have to worry about how much the glasses were going to cost and if we could afford the ones she wanted. She was able to choose the beautiful red glasses that she fell in love with at first glance. And we didn’t have to stress about what those glasses were going to do to our bank account.
This program is fantastic and makes it so easy for parents to have their children’s vision checked. Her eye exam was covered under OHIP and her very first pair of glasses were covered under the Eye See…Eye Learn program. The entire process came at no expense to us; all it cost was about 45 minutes in total of our time.
Take a look:
Just over a week later, her glasses arrived. As is customary in our family, we celebrated! Off we went to her favourite restaurant and toasted clearer vision with pizza and cake pops, with my daughter showing off her brand new shiny red glasses.