Lovey has worn glasses since right after Kitten was born. Ironically, we discovered her eye issues following a maternity photo shoot while I was pregnant with Kitten. In every photo we got back Lovey’s eyes were crossed. We started paying attention and at Kitten’s one week doctor’s appointment we asked for a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist. On her first visit she was diagnosed with amblyopia and strabismus. Also known as a crossed eye and a lazy eye. Lovey’s muscle in her right eye is weak and it takes extra effort for her to focus as a result. Her brain gets tired of doing the extra work and so it shuts down the signal to her eye and it turns in. Ironically, Honey had the same conditions diagnosed at the same age in the other eye.
These conditions require her to be treated with patch therapy. Lovey needs to wear an eye patch every day for 2 hours, preferably while she is doing activities that require her to use her eye. For a brief time the therapy was suspended, however on a follow-up appointment her vision had declined. We get our patches here because they come in fun colors and designs instead of plain old beige. Now that Lovey is getting older, she has a greater understanding of the fact that wearing a patch is not cool. She was psyched when she learned a friend in her class also had to wear a patch but crestfallen upon learning that friend has “graduated”. She doesn’t like wearing it and is only compliant because we have rewards in place for her.
Typically we only make her wear the patch at home, although there are times she wears it out in public if occasionally or when we go on vacation. Also, even when she is wearing it at home there are people who visit our house for various reasons. All of our close friends and family know about the patch and just accept it. People we meet in public or people who come to our house who aren’t as familiar with the patch often make comments. This is quite bothersome to Lovey. She feels uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say, nevermind the fact that people unknowingly make rude or inappropriate comments. Here are some of the doozies we’ve heard:
-An elderly woman in the grocery store: “Did she lose the eye?”
– “Do you have a boo-boo?” or :audible gasp: “What’s the matter with your eye!”
-A young boy at the playground (with no response from his parent BTW): “What’s that thing on her face?”
-“Look at that cool patch!” (I understand this is a well-intended comment, but it never works)
-“When I was your age I had to wear a patch too, I remember how much I hated it.” (again, well-intended, not helpful)
We have worked with Lovey to give a standard answer to these comments along the lines of “My patch makes my weak eye stronger” although we have also let her know that she can say whatever makes her comfortable including “I don’t want to talk about it”. When we were on vacation last year (on an island a mile square with the same people for the whole week) we came up with a standard line for everyone who asked us or her. We told everyone that Lovey was practicing to be a pirate. This technique actually worked great and diffused an awkward situation but also let people know that it wasn’t necessarily a polite inquiry.
So…what is the thing to say to a kid with an eye patch?
By not acknowledging it, it’s not perceived as different. Just like you wouldn’t say to someone in a wheelchair “I like your wheels” or “What happened to your legs?”. If you really are curious about Lovey’s eye patch please feel free to ask me not her, when she isn’t standing right there. I’d be more than happy to tell you all about her pirate training school.