MADISON, Wis. – Nerd. Four-Eyes.
Kids who wear glasses used to be easy targets for the classroom bully.
Today, they are making as much of a fashion statement as an improvement to their vision.
“Only a small percentage of children who have to wear glasses are disappointed about it,” says Dr. Amy Walker, an optometrist with the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology. “Most children are accepting of needing glasses because their friends or siblings wear glasses.”
Walker says that, unlike the very large or horn-rimmed glasses from decades ago, today’s frame styles and thinner lenses have made glasses more attractive for kids, especially pre-teens. However, she says some children who want them may not necessarily need them.
“I can tell if they are not trying hard enough when reading the eye chart,” says Walker. “At the end of the exam, I give them plain lenses without a prescription, then have them read the eye chart again. Most of the time, they are able to read it better because they want to demonstrate to their parents the glasses helped them see better.”
In those cases, Walker discreetly tells parents not to be concerned; their children do not need glasses. But she says those experiences are never a waste of time.
“I always mention this was a good time for an exam anyway,” she says. “Sometimes, I do pick up something that may need attention.”
While some kids may be eager to get glasses, Walker says parents are less enthusiastic about the idea as well as the cost.
“Some parents will ask, ‘Does my child have to wear glasses now? Can’t we put this off?’” she says. “They also control the purse strings, so they will choose the price range. Yet, I always encourage parents to let the child have some type of say, because they have to like them enough to wear them.”
“Children will usually go into their first pair of contacts in their middle-school years,” Walker adds. “Wearing them is more convenient if they want to play sports because the lenses are soft and don’t dislodge during physical activity. But, I always recommend they get at least one pair of eyeglasses because contacts are not always the best option every single day, especially if the child catches the flu.”
Walker also offers these suggestions to parents whose children may require eyeglasses or contact lenses:
- Go to establishments that treat a lot of children with eye problems. Usually, those places have opticians who are properly trained to fit glasses for children.
- Make sure a child’s eyeglasses are adjusted frequently. Walker says children’s frames are typically made of plastic, and in time, facial heat could make them stretch out and not fit properly.
- Make an appointment for an eye exam if a pediatrician detects potential vision problems. These may include strabismus (the misalignment of an eye so its line of vision is not pointed in the same direction as the other eye) and muscle palsies, which can cause double vision. Sometimes, bifocals or other specialty lenses can correct these problems.
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