Corrective lenses—I wear them, and you may also at some point in your life.
So why are glasses such a big deal when it comes to a child with special needs?
Factors such as the myriad unique needs of our children come together with the lack of variety in frame options, and inexperience on the side of the opticians in frame retail stores.
Mia started wearing glasses at eight months of age.
She’s on her sixth pair of glasses.
So I haven’t reached expert status yet, but I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, which hopefully I can help you avoid. Here are some tips for hunting the perfect pair of glasses, which in our case, are usually pink or purple in colour and super cute.
If this is your child’s very first pair of glasses, steer clear of discount shops
The first thing I noticed when we marched into the discount optic shop was that the opticians, while extremely knowledgeable when it came to finding the perfect frame for me, the mom, when it came to my daughter, they had no clue.
Glasses for an eight month old, who can’t sit up.
Most of the glasses on offer were too rigid and did not stay on her head if she was reclined in her stroller or rolling on the floor.
For the premiere pair of glasses, I found that going to store with a reputation for working with small children was far superior.
A speciality store will usually carry a variety of flexible frames that are suitable for a baby, toddler, or a child with special needs.
They will also have more experience in working with you to fit your child’s unique needs. It is more expensive, but in this case, you really do get what you pay for.
Shop around (as much as possible in your situation)
I write this and know you are rolling your eyes.
You’ll be lucky to survive one trip to a single store to try on glasses—no chance you’re going to make it to another store.
In our case, we did the shopping in stages.
Taking pictures of the winners and noting brands and styles along the way.
Nowadays, we have our favourite shop and don’t need to make the rounds anymore.
Most shops don’t require an appointment, but calling ahead can still make the situation more comfortable.
Calling ahead has many advantages.
If you have a child that goes into sensory overload, find out when is a quiet time to visit the store can make a stressful trip a bit less stimulating.
Ask if they have private cubicles or consultation rooms where you can try on the frames in peace and quiet.
I’ve even called ahead and asked for a pre-selection of frames to my specifications be set aside.
Ask for recommendations
While in the waiting room at the eye clinic, you see a child with extremely good looking frames.
Don’t be shy.
Ask the child’s parents where they got the glasses and note down the brand of the frames.
While you are at it, ask them for any other good tips.
Be prepared for an insensitive comment or two, and don’t take it personally
Special needs children sometimes have unique facial or cranial features that make finding a comfortable frame even harder.
Often we don’t even see these differences as parents.
Uneven ears, ear malformation, flat mid-face, short temples, misalignment of features, and narrow or wide-set eyes can make buying glasses a nightmare.
Enter the optician who often is just not experienced enough in dealing with unique customers.
I once left a frame shop almost in tears, as the inexperienced consultant tried to explain to me that none of their glasses would work for Mia because of her extremely adorable nose, which was apparently too small proportionally to her face.
Then she elaborated that Mia’s wide and flat nasal bridge, a key feature of her syndrome, was also working against us finding a suitably cute frame in their store.
Then she tried to push a pair of ugly, toady frames in army green that could possibly work.
Fine tuning necessary
Don’t be afraid to go back for adjustments.
If you’re having a particular problem getting the glasses to fit in certain situations, take a picture and see if the problem can be remedied.
Mia once had a pair of frames that fit great when she was upright, but as soon as she was on her back playing on the floor, the long temples pushed the glasses forward, even with the use of a sports band.
The shop owner custom-shortened the length of the temples and designed a customized strap that worked with the modified frame.
Now that you have the glasses—you have to figure out how to persuade your child to actually wear them.
That my friends, is a post for another day.