Have you ever seen a kid walking around with an eye patch on? Maybe your initial thought was something like, that kid's parents are way too lenient; they shouldn't be allowed to dress up like that in public. Well, not all children with pirate-like eye patches are playing around. Some are actually going through a form of vision therapy to improve their eyesight. Next time you see a child walking around with a decorative-looking patch, keep these considerations in mind.
Eye Patches are Used to Strengthen Vision
The main reason children wear eye patches is because one of their eyes is "dead". Some children are born with extremely poor vision in one eye. As the child progresses from infant to toddler, they rely more and more on the one eye that has good vision. By the time they are elementary school aged, the eye with poor vision is unaccustomed to doing any work and is virtually blind. However, with strengthening exercises, vision can be restored.
Children have to learn not to be dependent on their good eye alone. Since this is a subconscious decision, they need a way to prevent their good eye from working. The eye patch covers the good eye so that the other eye has to exercise its muscles and try to see. Kids with severe vision problems do this for a specific amount of time, sometimes up to 6 hours a day for a few years. Children start with basic exercises such as trying to focus on large objects at various distances. They are also encouraged to participate in normal activities that might help their coordination – such as eating with utensils, practicing their letter-writing, and taking walks to identify their surroundings.
Eye Patches can Make Children Feel Vulnerable
It takes a lot of willpower to go out in public with an eye patch on. Many children wear them at home and refuse to go anywhere with them on. Even the fun eye patches with their favorite Disney characters can't encourage them to go see a friend or play outside. So if you see a child with an eye patch, remember that the child probably feels more uncomfortable about it than you do. If you make eye contact with the child, smile encouragingly and comment on how "cool" they look or ask how long they've been wearing it. A friendly comment could be the boost in confidence that child needs.
Vision Problems Could be the Reason for Poor Behavior
If you didn't have sight in your peripheries or had to strain one eye to read signs, don't you think you'd get distracted easily? Well, many children with poor vision struggle in school and social settings. They learn more slowly and get sidetracked more easily than children with good eyesight. If you are trying to interact with a child who you know wears an eye patch for vision correction, be patient with them. An entire world they didn't know existed is slowly being opened up to them. They can finally see the things other people take for granted (birds in the sky, letters on a blackboard, and even the vibrancy of colors are all new to them). Instead of becoming impatient, try to be positive and remark on how much they've been improving.
Next time you see someone with an eye patch on, don't assume that they are acting out or that their parents are poor at disciplining. Instead, consider the way that child feels. Take the opportunity to make a positive comment and try to boost their confidence. Be patient when they lose interest, and remember that they are going through therapy and working hard to develop their eyesight.
Find out more about vision therapies by clicking here.