A crazy thing happened when Miss Z last visited the ophthalmologist. He declared that she needed glasses.
The first thing that everyone asks me when I tell them this is: how did he figure that out?
Good question! Miss Z is non-verbal, so she isn’t reading letters off a chart or telling the eye doctor which lens makes the image look clearer. In fact, because the ophthalmologist always has the nurse dilate Miss Z’s pupils before seeing her, she is invariably in a grumpy mood and takes non-cooperation to a whole new level with the poor doctor, who is actually a very nice man.
I can’t really explain how he did it. He had a device that he held up to her eyes, he looked in the other side and then fiddled with some buttons. After a bit of fiddling and adjusting, he put the device in a docking station and it printed out a report, which told him she was far-sighted and had astigmatism. He was surprised – Miss Z has annual eye checks and they’ve never indicated that she needed glasses before – so did the tests with the device again and got the same results.
Miss Z has CVI – cortical visual impairment – which means that even when her eyes work properly, her brain doesn’t always interpret what she is seeing correctly. So, even if she didn’t need glasses, things might appear blurred or out of focus to her. It also means that her sight can be variable – one day her vision may be good and the next very poor. I find particularly after she’s had a few bad seizure days that she rarely makes eye contact or looks directly at a book or the television. I interpret this as Miss Z having a ‘bad vision’ day. Other days she makes great eye contact and stares fixedly at things, suggesting it is a ‘good vision day’.
Fortunately, our ophthalmologist recently attended a conference where one of the speakers was a strong proponent of kids with CVI wearing glasses if they needed them – and her argument convinced him. Apparently, some eye doctors don’t think it is worth the effort of prescribing glasses for someone who already has a vision impairment.
Of course, in true Miss Z fashion, getting a prescription for glasses was the easy part. We then had to find an optomitrist who could fit Miss Z with glasses that would actually be comfortable and virtually unbreakable. It took a bit of effort, but we found a place in the end that carried a wide range of children’s glasses.
Trying on glasses took Miss Z’s refusal to cooperate to an entirely new level. Fortunately, Miss Z’s stylist (aka Vegemite) was there to make the big decisions on style and colour.
So, Miss Z now has glasses. And they make her even cuter than she was before, if that is even possible.
She’s not crazy about wearing them. Some days she doesn’t seem to mind, but other days she will spend all her time and energy on trying to knock them off. They have a band that goes round her head, so it is difficult to get them off completely, but she can still knock them skew-whiff.
It is hard to tell how much of a difference they make to her. I suppose that with her CVI, the glasses make a different difference to her every day – on bad vision days, they won’t help her to see any better, but on good vision days, they may help a lot. And her vision is becoming increasingly important as we focus more and more on communication through eye-gaze (more on that later!).
So, we’ll keep putting them on her, in hopes that she’ll get used to them and be happy to wear them more often. And in the meantime, at least they provide a bit of comedy.