Head, shoulders, knees and toes; eyes, ears, mouth and nose.
I taught my kiddos how to sing this song in Japanese and our youngest loves to just move through the motions like most toddlers do.
But this spring I have a new thought behind this elementary song.
In April I took my kids to a local children’s fair. We were running late to our next appointment when I was handed a flyer as I left. The flyer was for free children’s eye exams by a local office (which I have heard great things about). Against my better judgment I chose to be late and get my oldest two checked.
I had to hold my son on my lap to help him be tall enough to set his chin and eyes within the proper position to be scanned.
When all was said and done, we received their preliminary test results and my son’s numbers came back substantially high.
I went home and talked to my husband about what I had found out, and what the numbers meant. We don’t have vision insurance but we decided that if the numbers were that substantial, insurance didn’t matter and he needed to be seen.
Fast forward 6 weeks.
We finally made it to his eye appointment and after several tests and an hour later we discovered our 3-year-old was slowly going blind in one eye. WE HAD NO IDEA. I didn’t know he couldn’t see.
Our children have never shown signs of poor eyesight. They don’t sit exceptionally close to the tv, hold books and things close to their face. Our son has amazing hand-eye coordination, especially when throwing a ball. There were no obvious signs of his poor eyesight.
The reality was quite different. His right eye was slowly shutting off. After so many feet away his brain would turn his eye off and things that were there magically disappeared for him.
I’m trying not to sound so dramatic, but this shook my world as a mother. I had no idea my son was dealing with this, and according to the dr. if it would have gone untreated, his brain would have shut his right off completely within a few years. How could I not be devastated as a mother? It is my job to take care of them and be aware of their needs, and I missed THIS.
During his eye appointment the doctor and I visited a lot about his behaviors. There were a few things that I shared with her about him that were signs (I didn’t realize it at the time) about his eyesight.
The first and strongest inclination that something was off was his facial expressions. Since he was a baby he has always favored one side of his face. When he smirks or talks out of the side of his mouth, it is always the same side. Even his eye was droopy a little on one side. When I brought this to light with his pediatrician he said it could have been nerve damage and would hopefully grow out of it, but if not, there would need to be nerve testing when he was a little older.
In reality, his eye on that side was so strained that is was causing the rest of the muscles to become weak and droopy. His nerve situation was due to his eyesight on the other side of his face being so poor. The pediatrician never once mentioned this as a possibility.
Other signs that should have thrown a red flag up for me were things like his…
- Lack of interest in coloring and drawing
- Lack of interest in using small toys such as blocks
- Lack of interest in playing games
- Sensitivity to brightly lit rooms (He always wanted the curtains closed)
Most of these activities required fine motor skills while focusing on something with details. They have a lot going on and became overwhelming and therefore he didn’t like it. It was too much work for his eyes to try and focus and comprehend, so he just avoided these situations.
I just assumed he didn’t like these activities because he enjoyed reading books with me, but in this instance he was only looking, not interacting with the book like he would have to with other activities.
Our doctor not only provided me with quality information, but her office and staff provided the best customer service experiences I have ever had in a medical situation. During our visits she helped me realize that just like well-checks for children with their pediatrician, or the semi-annual visits to the dentist, children should have all of their senses checked regularly. She believes that children should have their eyes checked by the time they are two. Again, I had never considered this and had no idea. I just assumed I would notice if there was a problem, or when they started school there might be a concern come up.
Because of a fluke interaction at a children’s fair my son now has glasses and has begun to participate in board games, color and write. His fine motor skills during meal times have improved greatly and he doesn’t complain of things being too bright.
He just turned 4 and still has a lot of growing to do. His eyes will improve on their own as they grow, but he will most likely always need to have a prescription lens for his one eye.
We have had a few days where he just didn’t want to wear his glasses. But he really is intrigued with doctors and all they do. So we explained that the doctor wanted to wear the glasses because his eyes are sick, and these glasses are medicine glasses to help him feel better. Since then, he wears his “medicine glasses” without complaint.
I only share this story in hopes that it will hit home with another mom, or help others to realize the importance and serious risks of not getting regular eye checks. We certainly had no idea how severe his eyesight was or the long term damage that could have occurred by not addressing the situation earlier on. I’m grateful I chose to be late and stayed to have them checked. Our daughter’s now have appointments too to have their eyesight checked.