Around 36% of girls aged 6 to 17 need to wear glasses or contact lenses regularly. For boys, that figure is just over 29%, according to a survey by the CDC over at https://www.cdc.gov. For many kids, the process of getting new glasses or contacts is relatively straightforward.
If you’re the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, that process can sometimes be challenging. Still, that doesn’t mean you’ll never get your child to wear corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses!
As you already know, patience, love, and understanding are the ways you can be successful at helping your child overcome many things that feel overwhelming to them. Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses is a big deal for many people, whether they’re autistic or not.
Keeping those thoughts in mind, you’re probably wondering what the best way of approaching the subject with your child is. Plus, you’ll undoubtedly want to determine the right way of dealing with each stage of the process.
The following information will help you tackle the process of getting new eyeglasses or contact lenses for your child. Here is what you need to know:
Are you sure your child has a vision impairment?
You’ve probably concluded that the answer is yes, given that you are reading this article! Before you go any further, it’s vital to satisfy yourself 100% that your offspring needs corrective glasses or contacts.
Here are a few examples of the telltale signs:
- Squinting – a likely indicator that your child is experiencing a refractive error, resulting in poor focus;
- Head tilting or covering of an eye – such actions temporarily enhance clarity or stop double-vision;
- Sitting close to TVs and electronic devices – a likely sign that your child is short-sighted;
- Frequent eye rubbing – if your child continually rubs their eyes, it could be due to eyestrain;
- Headaches and eye pain – both symptoms might be due to overexerting their eyes to focus on objects properly;
- Poor concentration – another telltale sign of vision impairment is when your child finds it hard to concentrate and always adapts their visual focus from objects near to them, far away, and back again.
Some of those telltale signs might be down to other medical conditions, of course. However, if your child does at least two or more of those things above, the likelihood is high that they will need some correct eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Overcoming the optician’s appointment
Once you’re satisfied that your son or daughter requires corrective glasses or contacts, the first challenge to overcome is the optician’s appointment.
The last thing you want to do is overwhelm and upset your child. With that in mind, there are some steps you can take to ease your offspring into the idea gently. What you can do at the beginning is arrange for an “initial” consultation with your friendly local optician.
The idea behind that is to help your child familiarize themselves with getting an eye test. Such initial consultations will show your son or daughter what the consulting room looks like, and the equipment opticians use to test people’s eyesight.
Ideally, you should make an initial appointment with an optician that has experience working with autistic customers. Otherwise, asking the optician to explain the process to your child and answering their questions on the subject will help.
Before going to the initial consultation with your child, speak with the optician that is going to their eyesight. It’s worth explaining the things your offspring likes and dislikes, plus the things they respond well to, such as:
- Favorite characters from books or TV programs, such as cartoons.
You can ask the optician to communicate with your child in specific ways to help them understand what is going on. For instance, ask them to avoid using lengthy and complicated instructions.
Instead, use instructions that are clear and concise, and follow a specific syntax:
- The “first X then Y” syntax – for example, “first your left eye, then your right eye”;
- Taking turns – the optician could ask you to do something first, then ask your child to do what you’ve done.
Above all, you must ask your optician to be patient and calm with your child. After all, the process is likely to be overwhelming for them. There are other things you can do to make the eye testing process easier for your son or daughter.
For instance, you could agree with an allocated time for the initial consultation and use an egg timer, so your child knows when it ends. Another thing you can do is split the consultation over two sessions, with the first being the familiarization of the consulting room.
You shouldn’t have a tough time finding an optician that has experience working with autistic customers. But if you do, the above tips can help make the process more bearable for your child.
Eyeglasses or contact lenses?
Once you’ve overcome the first challenge of having your child’s eyesight tested, the next step is getting them used to wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Both options have their pros and cons, but your child will likely find it more comfortable to wear glasses initially.
Contact lenses are a choice they could consider when they’re older. For younger children, eyeglasses make more sense. Plus, you can buy glasses designed especially for kids and hold up to a lot of extreme handling before they get damaged.
Building up a tolerance to eyeglasses
So far, you’ve overcome the challenge of having your child’s eyesight tested, and the optician has confirmed that your son or daughter needs vision correction. The next task to complete with your child is to help them build up a tolerance to wearing glasses.
You should mentally prepare yourself for this stage because it could take your child weeks or even months to get used to wearing eyeglasses. There are two methods you could follow to achieve the desired results:
1. Wear inexpensive frames with no lenses
The first method you could consider is buying a pair of cheap frames designed for children. They could be brand new ones or cheap secondhand frames with lenses in them.
If you opt for secondhand frames, ask your child to help you remove the lenses, so they feel part of the process. One of the key points to remember is that they should feel included in each stage of the process, as it’ll make your child more willing to wear glasses.
You can then invite your son or daughter to try the frames on during short yet targeted practice sessions. Each session should last five to 15 minutes, depending on their tolerance levels. The sessions must become part of their daily schedule.
2. Choose the frames they want with corrective lenses
The second method you might decide to follow instead is buying new eyeglasses with the corrective lenses they need. As with the first method, short daily practice sessions will help your offspring familiarize themselves with the prospect of wearing glasses.
There are two ways that you could both choose the frames they’re happy to wear. The first is by going back to their optician and selecting a pair of frames on display. However, if that isn’t feasible, it’s also possible to buy online from sites like https://www.eyeglasses.com.
An advantage of buying online is that you have more choices on offer, whereas selections are limited when purchasing from an optician.
Don’t forget to reward your child
Getting used to wearing eyeglasses is a big challenge for your child to overcome. To that end, you should reward your son or daughter at the end of each practice session. Such personal motivators can be stickers, playing with toys, or even just having a big hug!
Rewards will give your child a sense of achievement and encourage them to continue with their practice sessions. Eventually, after all the hard work you’ve both put in, your child will ease into wearing glasses daily.
Don’t forget that your child will also find having better vision clarity a reward in itself. The fact they can see clearly and better with glasses will motivate them further to get used to wearing eyeglasses.
Children on the autistic spectrum find many things overwhelming that non-autistic kids take for granted. Dealing with something such as a vision impairment can often be a long and arduous journey for both autistic children and their parents.
The idea of getting tested for eyesight problems, let along wearing corrective eyewear, can be enough to make some autistic kids panic and get quite upset at the prospect. Thankfully, the process is more comfortable and tolerable if carried out in a particular way.
The article you’ve just read is by no means a definitive “how-to” to help you navigate the subject of vision correction. Instead, it gives you some guidance on the methods you can use to ensure a successful outcome.
If possible, using an optician that has experience working with autistic children will make life easier. Aside from that, creating a new regular “practice” routine will eventually lead your child to wear eyeglasses without prompting.
Thank you – and good luck.
*this is a collaborative post