Stella has accommodative esotropia due to farsightedness (hyperopia), and amblyopia, which is probably contributed to by anisometropia (unequal refractive power in her eyes). As with our tube weaning story, I hope someone somewhere can benefit from our ongoing journey in the realm of vision. To dive right in, use the links below. Read on for all the background–and be sure to pop up some popcorn.
Stella donned her first pair of glasses at the ripe old age of 20 months. The sequence of events leading to those adorable frames was sparked by an emergency room visit entailing a head CT scan, as Stella’s eyes began crossing severely one afternoon, a problem that seemed to come out of nowhere. At first it was perceived as a scary reaction to a possible bump to the head (hence the CT), at the end of a week of appetite-crunching, energy-zapping, snot-ridden illness. We later realized that her eyes had not been properly aligned since birth, though it was deemed intermittent. I can now look back at baby pictures and see how the little white dots of light are in different places and obsess endlessly about how her eyes weren’t straight–fun! (By the way, that whole detecting strabismus through quick photo analysis thing? Not a great party trick for some reason.) I now know that it’s not uncommon for an illness to reveal or trigger eye crossing or other forms of strabismus–the resulting fatigue broke down Stella’s ability to focus through her farsightedness, and her ability to accommodate that slight mis-alignment. Her eyeballs and associated muscles were simply exhausted by that bug, having endured extra strain all along. I honestly don’t know how long it would’ve taken for us to uncover her visual issues otherwise. She could see details near and far! She’s loved books for as long as I can remember! So in a way, I’m really quite thankful for that hideous cold.
It took a month or maybe closer to two before she really accepted the glasses, and patience is not exactly my strong suit so those were trying days. Though in hindsight I realize that Stella did amazingly well with the transition to a bespectacled life. At our very next check-up with the ophthalmologist, following the initial appointment during which glasses were prescribed, we were informed that Stella’s left eye was being tuned out by her brain, and that she needed to begin patching. It was like being punched in the gut, as I thought we’d addressed her vision issues and were finally settling into a new “normal.”
After reading Fixing My Gaze, I became extremely interested in vision therapy (okay, I was kind of obsessed) as a complement to the three hours of patching Stella was doing each day in order to treat her amblyopia. After a bit of asking around and, of course, some major googling, I found a relatively nearby developmental ophthalmologist with a practice centered on vision therapy for kids. This doctor was our third opinion. The first was an ophthalmologist who never mentioned vision therapy, and the second was a developmental ophthalmologist who said Stella was too young for vision therapy.
Stella attended her first session of vision therapy at just 24 months of age and, as of this writing, has been going in weekly for almost five months. We do 20 minutes of vision therapy at home, five days a week, as well. We are seeing wonderful improvement. Her weaker eye once had acuity of around 20/80, and now it’s up to 20/30. And her eyes don’t cross nearly as easily during examination! Her fine motor skills (and patience for fine-motor tasks) have taken off. All told, this stint of vision therapy will span nine to twelve months, until her vision reaches an age-appropriate level, or until her improvement stops or plateaus.
I write about Stella’s vision here and at Little Four Eyes, a mindblowingly helpful resource for parents of little ones who wear glasses and/or face visual challenges of all sorts. (Go there immediately if you haven’t already! Yes–gasp!–it’s so good that I’m ordering you to leave my site in the dust!)
Thanks for reading!