Every so often something happens that makes me smile – life gives you an opportunity which is a privilege to experience. One came my way last week.
A mother brought her little girl into the practice as she had suffered a minor eye injury. We got her all sorted out and recommended a routine eye examination when all was settled. They had recently moved to Belfast from the other side of the world and spoke little English. Following a routine eye examination (with lots of gesturing etc.!), we found that she had a bucketload of astigmatism. Astigmatism has a habit affecting the visual system in slightly unusual ways - where you can see objects but the quality of the image is badly affected.
When I put the first lens in, she muttered something to her mum really quietly. I asked her mum to translate – she simply said “I can see.” From her expression, it was evident that this was news to all concerned.
These lovely people have played on my mind for some time now. Having recently moved house myself, I can identify with the stress it can cause (and my postcode didn’t even change!). It is hard to imagine how life would be affected by moving country and having to learn a new language (and maybe alphabet also) – without significant sight impairment.
Any parent reading this can imagine the educational implications of vision loss. Every day I see patients who during their childhood “slipped the net.” Sometimes they were branded ‘just a bit thick,’ or ‘not the academic type.’ In hindsight, they were working so hard to simply see the blackboard, there was no way that they could concentrate on the content.
Current education regulations state that Primary school children have their sight tested once during their primary school years. This is usually a test performed in the classroom by a school nurse. Time and funding implications limit the extent of the test. So if you do nothing about your child’s vision, no one else will. Additionally, it’s all paid for by the NHS.
Children should be seen by an optometrist who is specifically trained to communicate effectively with those of all ages and abilities. We at Petticrew Optometrists know that if the child is happy, we get more accurate clinical results. Little ones do not have to know their letters for us to examine their eyes.
A manipulative combination of extreme encouragement, reverse psychology and killer rewards like stickers and being ‘allowed’ to wear the silly glasses, enable us to get good results too.
Parents are consistently amazed that we got so much done and report that their kids really look forward to their next visit. As if kids actually enjoy healthcare examinations.