Chapter 21: Growing Up with Strabismus
A Patient & Parent Guide to Strabismus Surgery
George R. Beauchamp, M.D.
Once we cleared the hurdle of getting Matthew into glasses and on a stable course of treatment, we faced some emotional challenges as well. As Matthew became older and more aware, he began to feel different from his peers because of his glasses. For many years, he was the only child with glasses in his class. Many of his peers would ask him why he wore glasses and some would even grab at them out of curiosity. Still others would ask why his glasses were "cracked" (referring to the bifocal line). Matthew would get frustrated and not want to wear his glasses. This just tugged at my heart, but I always came back to the realization of how crucial it was for Matthew to continue to wear his glasses. If untreated, strabismus could jeopardize his vision.
As I eventually found with Matthew, if you can explain things to your child so he understands how important it is to keep his eyes healthy and strong, you will make great strides in helping him emotionally as well. With Matthew, we told him that he was his eyes’ greatest protector and that his glasses were making his eyes as strong as they could be. I soon learned that he was explaining this to his friends in his own words and, since then, there have been very few questions or comments by his peers. In fact, one child (after speaking with Matthew) told his mother that he needed an eye exam because he needed to make sure he kept his eyes strong. There will always be kids who tease, but what Matthew and I found was that many of the children who were making comments were simply curious and just wanted to understand. Once he explained it to them in his own way, they accepted it and moved on.
What also has made a tremendous difference for Matthew is having him connect with someone who likewise has strabismus and who can understand what Matthew is feeling both physically and emotionally. Matthew’s friend was diagnosed with strabismus at a very young age and has dealt with it for several years. He has been such a source of encouragement for Matthew. They have talked about how tough it is to be the only kid in glasses. They have talked about how they both do not like the eye drops during their routine checks at the ophthalmologist. Yet Matthew’s friend always reminds him how important it is to do everything he can to keep his eyes strong and healthy.
There is such a benefit to parents connecting with others as well. I have been so fortunate to have found an incredible support system of medical professionals and friends. They all have taught me so much about strabismus and how to help and encourage your child while dealing with the condition.
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