How to choose an eye patch for a preschooler

Lucy has a special tool that’s been helping her eye get stronger. And (I know you’re going to be shocked) it has sparkles on it.

Back in February, we went for one of Lucy’s routine eye exams with Dr. Rabiah. Since Lucy has “amblyopia”:http://aapos.org/faq_list/amblyopia (basically meaning one eye is weaker than the other), they have been monitoring her vision every few months to see if her weak eye will get up to speed. She had dramatic improvement just from wearing her glasses for several months, but in February, it seemed that she had hit some kind of plateau.

Dr. Rabiah recommended that Lucy wear an eye patch over her strong eye for two hours a day, just to give an extra workout to her weaker eye. This wasn’t a surprise; we knew it was a possibility ever since “Lucy first got her glasses”:http://boydsnest.org/news/2010/diamonds-are-a-girls-best-friend/. But still, I drove home with one anxious thought: “Where will I ever find an eye patch beautiful enough that Lucy will wear it?”

Dr. Rabiah recommended a couple of companies that make stick-on eye patches, which basically look like big round “Band-Aids”:http://jonboyd.org/words/000026.php. He likes these because it’s impossible for the child to “cheat” and look around the side of the eye patch. But after researching them, I realized there are two reasons they wouldn’t work for us:

# wearing a Band-Aid over your eye every day seems like it would be a little uncomfortable
# there are no options with princesses or sparkles on them — duh!

So I did a little more research, googling “amblyopia” and coming up with a variety of websites offering advice and support, particularly on the topic of eye patches. It was on one of these sites that I learned about “Anissa’s Fun Patches”:http://www.anissasfunpatches.com/, a piece of thin foam that attached to the glasses but snuggled up against the eye. Bonus factor: it was designed by a grandma. This seemed like the best place to start, so I ordered a rainbow one for a few dollars and waited for it to arrive in the mail.

While waiting, I happened upon a lovely woman on “etsy”:http://www.etsy.com/shop/2DaughtersandaMom?ref=seller_info who makes custom eye patches (of a very similar design to Anissa’s) for a mere $3 per pair. I decided to order a few of these too, which she was happy to make with Disney princess stickers and sparkles. At my request, she even made a few pin-on princess badges for Rosie to wear during the eye patch time, since I was starting to sense that she was feeling left out of all the eye-patch-wearing fun.

Both types of eye patches were a hit, but especially the princess ones. They seemed comfortable for Lucy to wear, and having a few different kinds to choose from reduced the fights about wearing the patch (“Would you like rainbow, Ariel, or Aurora today?”). It took a little getting used to, since it is actually harder for Lucy to see when using only her weaker eye. But over the months, her eye has definitely gotten stronger, and that’s not as big of a deal now.

Lucy usually wears her eye patch first thing in the morning — partly to get it done for the day, and partly so that she doesn’t have to wear it much in public. Neither she nor I mind about being seen with it on, but she will often get surprised looks and questions (usually directed toward me, oddly) like, “What happened to her eye?” To which I always respond, “Oh! Lucy gets to wear this really cool eye patch every day for two hours to help her eye get stronger. See, this one has Ariel on it! And it’s pink, one of her favorite colors.” Even though I do my best to spin it, I know Lucy feels a little shy about these encounters, and I want the eye patch therapy to be as positive as possible — so we wear it first thing in the morning.

Lucy’s been doing great. We often talk about how wearing her patch is like working out with weights, but strengthening her eye instead of her biceps. Sometimes Lucy wants to wear her patch for even longer, just to make her eye “super strong.”

We just had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Rabiah last week, and he was pleased to tell us that Lucy was now seeing 20/20 with both eyes while wearing her glasses — which means we’ve hit our goal! Lucy felt very proud that all of her hard patch-wearing work has had such excellent results. We’re down to patching for only one hour a day now (which feels like a breeze), and we’re anticipating that pretty soon Lucy will go patch-free.

Good job, Lucy! This is hard work for a five-year-old, but you’ve been diligent, and it has paid off. What a great story to remember your whole life — an early example of a struggle, followed by months of hard work, ending with results you can be very proud of. Nicely done!

7 Replies to “How to choose an eye patch for a preschooler”

  1. I love that you were able to get the patch in a princess motif! What a great mom for taking the time to research it to make it easier for Lucy.

  2. There is a kid’s book called “My Travelin’ Eye” which tells the author’s story of needing to wear eye patches for her lazy (or her preferred term, traveling) eye. She created her own patches with her mom! I’m sure it would be a great book to share with Lucy:)

  3. Our friend passed on their cloth ones to us. By the end of his duration wearing them, he would educate any question asker’s with a very thorough explanation. It really did help his eyes to be closer in their abilities, too.

  4. I think I’d heard of that book, Maria, but it wasn’t available at the library — I’ll see if I can try to find it again! I did check out one called The Patch by Justina Chen Headley, but I thought it was a little negative. In this story, the girl does a lot of complaining at the beginning about glasses and patch before coming around to enjoying it, and I just didn’t want to introduce the idea that the patch was “uncool” before Lucy got there herself. Might be better for older kids.

    Pam, glad to hear of your patching success!

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