Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Glasses, Eye Drops, and Drama

The first time I ever took Tate to an eye doctor for an examination I believe he was still in preschool. It was something the early intervention team wanted us to do. I had no worries about his vision but I wanted him seen by a doctor experienced with kids having autism. Children’s Mercy Hospital assured me they were the one I was seeking and I was very impressed. The Ophthalmologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital agreed with me. Tate was seeing fine. The second time we took Tate, he was in elementary school and was probably in second or third grade. I took him because the school nurse insisted he was not seeing well. I knew (or thought I knew) it was just his inability to understand the test directions and communicate with the school nurse. So we trekked over to Children’s Mercy again to see the pediatric eye doctor. His eyes again tested fine. When Tate was in fifth grade the school nurse failed him on the eye exam again and wanted me to take him back tot he eye doctor. I ignored her. When Tate’s sixth grade teacher and Para both told me Tate was struggling to see I made another appointment, fully expecting to fine nothing wrong with Tate’s vision. As we sat in that exam room and Tate tried to read the letters on the wall across the room I was stunned. The eye doctor asked me if I was sure Tate knew the alphabet. He’s known upper and lower case letters since he was a toddler. I wanted to crawl under the chair while someone made me a sign to wear that said, “BAD PARENT” because I had not known Tate needed glasses to see. He was as blind as a bat. Apparently, if a kid’s eyes are going to “go bad,” they often do it about the fifth grade.

The day Tate got glasses was quite a memorable day for more than one reason. It was snowing so hard that school was cancelled that day and I was going to cancel the appointment. It was a long drive and I did not want to make it. But my husband Shawn insisted he would drive us so we went. Normally if my husband goes to appointments with us he sits in the waiting room and works from his phone. He is a HVAC contractor and does a whole lot of his work on the phone. I asked him to come back with us. I suspected Tate was going to be a little difficult if they tried to put drops in his eyes. Wow. Was I glad Shawn was with us! Tate put up a fight. He did not mean to. He tried so hard to sit still and allow those drops to fall into his eyes but he just could not keep his hands down and his head still or his eyes open and he was thrashing around like a wild man. Tate is strong. He does not have much coordination but he is strong. And he is big. At that time he was over six feet tall. It took a lot of work and a long time to get those drops in Tate’s eyes. Without those drops though, they could not have really prescribed him glasses. Because kids like Tate cannot really go through the lenses and tell an eye doctor if their vision is better or worse, the doctor has to dilate the pupils and then look into the back of the eye and “see” for the patient.

Tate hated those drops so much. I don’t know if it was the stinging eyes, the dilated pupils, the required sunglasses, having to hold his eyes open for the drops, the invasion of his space, or the way his eyes felt for the rest of the day he hated the most. But when I told him a few days ago it was time to see the eye doctor again, it was the drops that became his number one topic of conversation for the next few days. He came up with every excuse in the book, including, “We only go to the eye doctor when it is snowing.” I got texts and his siblings got texts about this injustice. (I've posted his texts below.) He was sure I had made a grave error in scheduling an appointment in July. I promised Tate I would ask the eye doctor if there was any way we could forgo the drops this time. And I did ask but her answer was, “No.” I will insert here that both the doctor and her assistant were so patient and kind. They listened to Tate’s concerns in all his broken language. They waited for him to finish. We received a lot more than our fair share of time. They gave him several options, one of them being he could lie on the floor if he liked when they put the drops in. They worked hard to accommodate him. He chose to sit in the chair and try to do it without anyone holding his hands or head. He also opted to have Sydney go first (Yes. She had not had her eyes checked for about three years there so I had scheduled her too. Of course she was EXCITED to be there!) Sydney did fine as expected. And he did a great job compared to our last visit. He couldn’t keep his eyes open and his eyelids are SRONG. He kept raising his hands to “defend” himself but he tried hard not to. I held his hands down in the end but we got it done without other adults coming in. There were two nurses actually standing in the hall, ready to assist if we needed. He was proud of himself and he has not complained once since it was done! He has thin plastic slip-in sunshades for his glasses from the appointment and he is wearing them like a hot new accessory.  

Tate’s prescription had barely changed. But I got another surprise. Sydney needs glasses. She has always had a problem with her left eye drifting a little when she is tired. I don’t even notice it anymore but Shawn and her siblings do sometimes and they mention it once in a while. That drifting was the main reason I had made the appointment. I wanted the doctor to look at that again. Each time in the past the doctor told me it was not significant enough to treat. She told me that again today. However, now Sydney’s left eye has developed the need for glasses, unrelated to the other problem. The doctor said Sydney is using her right eye, which has almost perfect vision and not using her left eye, which is near-sighted. I have the same thing going on with my eyes and have since I became an adult. I caught myself just as I was about to say, “She gets it from her mama.” Oh yeah…. Ummmm No.  I have no family history on her birth mom’s eyes. Sigh.

So, we left Children’s Mercy and headed to Wal-Mart where we got three pair of glasses, one for Tate and two for Sydney. The total bill for three pair? $150.00 The frames are guaranteed for one year too. No questions asked. For kids under 18 years old, Wal-Mart does this as a service. Like them or hate them for many reasons folks but I like being able to afford the kids’ glasses so easily. I’m so glad a friend told me about their program for kids when Tate needed to get glasses. And of course, Sydney is excited and that will probably last a week. I imagine I will wish I had bought six pair when she starts losing them. 

This was 24 hours before
the dreaded appointment.
For ears? Seriously?
They made a huge
mistake then!!
There's been a huge injustice!
And he's still holding a
grudge about the past
appointment and the snow
day as well. Note:
Tate is always ready to
throw Levi under the bus.
He often tries to shift the
focus. HA!

He's desperate now. This was minutes
before we walked out the door. 

If you happen to be following Tate's photo gallery, he added a few today. While Sydney and I were looking at frames, I caught him out of the corner of my eye taking photos of the rows and rows of glasses. As usual, it's all about uniformity and lines. I added them to the post of his photos when we got home. You can find that here: Tate's photo gallery

And if you are interested in our dental visits then this is the post for you: cleaning, filling, and straightening the teeth of autism


  1. I sympathise with Tate, I got glasses at 11, I have no history of cognitive impairment and my parents still didn't realise I was blind as a bat! So no need for the "bad parent" sign. The reason I sympathise is I had my pupils dilated at Easter (they were checking for a detached retina, luckily I was fine) and it was an incredibly weird experience, I can imagine even worse for someone with sensory sensitivity. BTW, Sydney looks utterly adorable in her glasses - when I was 11 I was super excited to get mine too.

  2. Hello, Lisa! It seemed that taking these two for an eye examination was a handful, but I take it you all had fun? And kudos to Tate for trying to remain still for the procedure and I do know how hard that must be. I suggest a few relaxation techniques before the procedure like breathing techniques to keep him calm, and giving him your reassurance that you’d be there would with him helps a lot, too. Take care!

    Beulah Jackson @ 96th Street Eye Care

  3. I like the way you write. Awesome, keep it up.

  4. I remember taking my son for glasses when he was young as well. It was a very difficult task to try and get a preschooler to open his eyes for them to put the drops in. We found the nicest eye doctor. He had a way about him that got my son to listen, he was fantastic.

    Doris Gibbs @ Moody Eyes

  5. wow you sound like an amazing mum, and these two little one's are lucky to have you. I was inspired by your story as I am thinking of adopting as well. Although it may be challenging I think it will also be rewarding. I want to wish your family good luck and health and happiness for the future.

    Lucius Calhoun @ Bolton Vision Centre

  6. Vision Care Center is the solution for those who get tired of changing glasses in every 6 months frequently. Even it's a solution for those who think that they could have perform better if they don't have to wear glasses. It's a one stop solution for your precious eyes.