MUM SAYS My 4-year-old needs to use glasses

One Singaporean mother shares her emotions on learning that her young daughter’s eye sight needs to be corrected.

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“My husband and I recently learnt that my 4-year-old daughter, Eva, needs glasses.

About six months ago, we started noticing that Eva would tilt her head forward whenever she watched TV, or when she was using a mobile device.

We weren’t sure why she was doing it ― maybe she was too engrossed, or maybe she couldn’t see clearly. At that point in time, we would ask her why she was doing it and to sit up properly.

However, we soon realised that something could be wrong, so we made a note to ask the nurse about it during her 4-year developmental screening at the polyclinic that was coming up soon.

We started noticing that Eva would tilt her head forward whenever she watched TV, or when she was using a mobile device.

Eva was to have her eyes examined during this checkup. She went through several tests ― during one of them, she was asked to sit in front of several acrylic boards to test her ability to recognise depth. Although she took a while, she managed to pass two of the three tests ― the nurse told us it was fine.

Since she was too young to read letters and numbers off an eye chart, she was asked to match the same letter and numbers on a different chart instead.

While I was a little nervous for her, I tried to remain calm as I didn’t want to stress her out. I just told her to tell us what she saw.

After the tests, a doctor told us that her eyesight was quite poor for someone so young – so it was better if they referred her to the KKH Eye Centre.

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At Eva’s KKH appointment, an autorefractor was used to examine her vision. She was given eye drops to relax her eyes and dilate her pupils, and also underwent more eye chart tests.

After that, to determine the power of the lenses that she would need, she had to look at a flip chart with pictures. The optometrist stood at one end of the room, and asked my daughter to name the objects in the pictures, while different lenses were added.

After they gave us her spectacle prescription, we saw a doctor. We were told that Eva has myopia ― 300 degrees in the right eye and 150 in the left eye, as well as astigmatism ― 175 degrees in the right eye and 250 in the left eye.

It may also be due to genetics ― both my husband and I have myopia.

In addition, she has a “lazy eye” ― her right eye is significantly weaker than the other. Now, she needed to wear a pair of glasses 24/7, except for when she is showering or sleeping.

Of course, I felt guilty ― I let her have half an hour of screen time a day ― was that too much? I also wondered, would it not have been so bad if I had spotted the problem earlier?

My husband, too, felt “heart pain” that our daughter has to wear glasses at such a young age.

As we spoke to the doctor, we learnt screen use may have been part of the problem, but not completely. It may also be due to genetics ― both my husband and I have myopia.

The doctor gave us some valuable advice ― she should reduce the amount of TV that she watched, as well as avoid mobile gadget screen time completely. We should also limit her other close-distance activities like reading, doing homework, or even playing with Lego to 30 minutes.

The best thing we could do was to go outdoors ― to places where you can look far into the distance.

We’ll need to go back to KKH in three months for a review to see whether her eyesight has improved, otherwise we would need to see a specialist.

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I was initially worried that Eva wouldn’t be receptive to wearing glasses, but she has taken to it like a champ. Perhaps it’s because both her parents also use spectacles. In fact, on the day that we make her glasses, she wanted to pick a frame that was exactly like mine!

At the same time, I didn’t want her to take things to lightly ― to think that wearing glasses is for fun or to look pretty. I wanted her to realise how screen time could affect her sight, so that she would consciously take note of her lifestyle.

The other thing that got me worried was how she would manage wearing glasses, especially in school, or when she is at the playground. So far, we’ve been really proud of how she takes care of her glasses ― even in school, she removes them during naptime and makes sure she keeps them safely in the case.

You need to rectify the problem early, otherwise your child’s brain will be conditioned to accept that blurred vision, and this can even affect their brain development.

I definitely limit her screen time more these days. Sometimes, when we have our hands full, we do let her have just a little screen time, but we won’t allow it in certain places, like in a moving car.

We also talked to her preschool teachers about Eva’s need to use glasses, and have asked them, if possible, to spread the message of good eye habits.

The doctor says that her eyesight may improve, or it could get worse ― it can go either way. But I’m glad that we finally sought help. I’ve been reading about eye problems in children and early intervention is important. You need to rectify the problem early, otherwise your child’s brain will be conditioned to accept that blurred vision, and this can even affect their brain development.

One important thing that heartens me about this entire experience is how positively Eva has embraced the situation.

I was (and still am!) anxious when strangers make comments about her wearing glasses. I’m afraid that she’ll be teased that she has to wear them at such a young age.

But she’s been great about it. If someone asks her about them, she simply tells them, ‘My eyes spoiled because I watch too much YouTube.’

Although wearing glasses isn’t a big deal to her, at least she acknowledges that she has to do something about her poor eyesight!”

Priscilla Chua, a campaign manager, is mum to Eva, 4.

Photos: Priscilla Chua


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