As National Children’s Eye Health Month (24 October – 23 November 2016) gets underway, a last-minute appointment at the Specsavers store in Hucknall led to a life-changing prescription for a local child.
Kerry Frisby noticed some tell-tale signs in her two-year-old son, Leo, but was told that his problems were behavioural. Here, she shares her experiences of how Leo’s first eye test changed his life.
What concerns did you have about Leo before his eye test?
As a very young baby I had concerns about Leo`s eyes as they would often appear very red and watery and he would screw them up or close his eyes in bright sunlight. I took him to the doctor who could not find anything wrong.
As Leo got older he disliked leaving the house and wanted to play at home. He had very little verbal communication and would easily lose his temper. I took him to the doctor again and was told that it was probably a behavioural problem.
What prompted you to get his eyes tested?
I noticed that Leo would sit very close to the television and would pull toys and books close to him when looking at them.
Whilst taking my older children for an eye test at the Specsavers store in Hucknall, I asked the optometrist director, Steven, if Leo was too young to have his eyes tested. We discussed my concerns about Leo’s eyes and he asked that I return the next day for Leo to have an eye test.
What was your reaction when you found out that Leo had problems with his eyesight?
I was upset when I learned that Leo had problems with his eye sight, but also very relieved that he could get some help. I had a few questions which were answered and I was given reassurance by all the staff that he would be okay.
What was your experience of the eye test given that Leo was so young?
I was a little apprehensive as I wasn’t sure how Leo would react or if he would cooperate. Steven was fantastic with Leo; he kept him calm and played with him during the test, it didn’t take very long and Leo even appeared to enjoy the experience.
He was referred to the hospital but due to his eyesight being very poor it was recommended that we order some glasses in the store, rather than wait for the referral. All the staff made a huge fuss of Leo whilst trying on different glasses and even his teddy bear got to try a pair on. I was made to feel at ease and Leo now asks if he can go into the shop every time we pass which is nice. He loves having new glasses.
How did you all feel once Leo had his vision corrected?
When Leo received his first pair of glasses a few days after his test it was an emotional moment. He noticed things that he had not seen before and kept looking around at everything, studying faces and objects. He had the biggest smile and I did have a few tears in my eyes. That night Leo would not take his glasses off and fell asleep wearing them.
When we went to the hospital Leo was also diagnosed with Optical Albinism which causes his eyes to be very sensitive to light. A tint was put onto his glasses and Leo now loves playing outside with his older brothers. His brothers look out for him and will help him change his glasses when in bright sunlight to his darker tinted pair. They have bonded more now that Leo joins in with their games and they involve him in everything they do.
How has life improved since?
Life for Leo has been changed dramatically now he has his glasses.
He had been referred for speech and language therapy but once he got his glasses he showed an interest in books and playing with his brothers instead of the destructive behaviour that he had showed before.
His speech improved within the first few weeks and he was less frustrated as he began to listen and speak more and he started copying other children playing.
He was also having swimming lessons but was very nervous in the water and needed lots of reassurance. As soon as he got his prescription goggles this changed and he is now going from strength to strength, just like his brothers who love swimming. Leo recently took part in a swimathon for Rainbows Children`s Hospice alongside his brothers, members of staff from Specsavers, friends and family raising more than £5000. Specsavers also supported the event and provided swimming hats for all the swimmers.
Would you recommend other parents get their children’s eyes tested, and at what age?
I would certainly recommend having children’s eyes tested at an early age.
Leo was very young – not quite two years old – when he had his first test. I would certainly recommend other parents to do the same if they have any concerns about their child’s behaviour or sight. I believe that all children should have an eye test before they start school.
Store director, Stephen Archer, reiterates this: ‘Leo’s case just highlights the importance of checking eyes as part of all routine health tests. Leo’s life changed dramatically after he came to see us, which is fantastic, but unfortunately it’s all too common that a problem with eyesight is overlooked as being the cause of behavioural problems. This is especially true for young children, who may find it difficult to explain the difficulties they are having with their eyesight. They may not even be aware they have a problem at all.
‘We recommend that children have their first eye test by the age of three, but if you have any concerns, it is not unheard-of for children to have their first test earlier. Testing before your son or daughter goes into full-time education means that any problems that they may have are identified early, setting them up for a happy and fulfilling school life.
‘And of course, the sooner that vision problems are detected, the better the outcome. Conditions such as squint and amblyopia (lazy eye) can be treated more effectively if they are picked up earlier. And that could make a huge difference to your child.’