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One day when I was 12, a school friend and I were riding around town on our bikes. We should have been doing homework, but didn't quite feel like it yet. When it suddenly started pouring down with rain, my friend pointed to an optician's and said, "hey, let's get an eye test". It was free, would be "fun", and would keep us dry while the rain died down. As it turned out, I needed glasses. I don't think I ever had a comprehensive eye exam before that day, but I do remember the pediatrician shining into my eyes with a light.
When the test was over, the optometrist asked me if I'd like to step outside, wearing those hugely embarrassing "owl glasses" they use to determine your prescription. I reluctantly agreed. My prescription was -2 and I wasn't reluctant anymore when I saw individual leaves on spring trees for the very first time. Don't get me wrong — I knew trees had individual leaves. I had seen them on the ground during the fall and on low bushes. On high trees though? Never.
Of course, when I did get my first pair of glasses — a wide-rimmed black pair — I was ashamed and worried my classmates would bully me, so I delayed wearing them at school. When I did take the plunge, I found that I could actually see what was written on the blackboard clearly. (I was a loud kid and sat at the back of the classroom.)
Red Flags That Indicate Your Child May Need Glasses
Only a full eye exam can ultimately determine whether or not your child needs glasses. However, there are plenty of warning signs that indicate it is time to take your child to see an optometrist. Here's a list.
- Your child squints. Whether someone is nearsighted or farsighted, squinting is a classic tell-tale sign that their eyes aren't working properly. Squinting is the brain's way of trying to focus on something that isn't clear. Closing only one eye when they're trying to see something well can indicate astigmatism or can mean that one eye is a whole lot better than the other.
- Your child may tilt their head.
- Your child frequently rubs their eyes or complains of tired eyes. Trying to see well without glasses when everything is blurry is hard work. Complaining of headaches often is another related sign.
- Sitting really close to the TV or computer screen or bringing a book or tablet very close to the eyes is a red flag for nearsightedness.
- Your child may lose track of words or lines in books they're reading. Their handwriting may be untidy despite ample instruction. Likewise, the child's attention span may seem to be short for their age group and appear to be clumsy.
If your child is displaying any of these signs of vision problems, you have excellent reason to book an appointment for an eye test. However, all kids should have eye exams regardless of whether they show signs of needing glasses. Find out why — and what to expect from an eye test — on the next page.