Sunday, July 21, 2013


Because I am terribly nearsighted, I have worn glasses or contact lenses since I was eight years old. Although Ed’s vision is much better than mine, he has worn glasses since he was a teenager. Fortunately, Alex has always had more acute vision than either one of us, spotting small details at distances and showing that he apparently did not inherit poor eyesight from us. For this reason, we have not felt the need to take him to the eye doctor yearly. We would check his eyesight informally by holding up fingers to count or print to read and felt satisfied that he could see well.

When Alex was five years old, our family optometrist referred us to a developmental optometrist who specialized in visual therapy. This eye doctor diagnosed Alex as being slightly farsighted, which he assured us was typical for children that age, and as having convergence disorder, meaning his eyes did not track together properly. He recommended glasses with prism lenses to help his eyes work together better and a little bit of magnification to help him read or do close work more easily. In addition, he suggested having the lenses tinted slightly pink (the proverbial “rose-tinted glasses”) to cut down glare and put less strain on his eyes. After selecting the most durable frames we could find, we ordered a pair of these glasses for Alex, who happily wore them thinking that he looked like beloved cartoon character Arthur. Besides wearing the glasses, the developmental optometrist had Alex doing eye exercises on a weekly basis at his office and on a daily basis at home. Within a few weeks, we noticed several big improvements as Alex’s balance seemed much better, allowing him to walk up and down stairs and curbs more easily. Also, he stopped tipping his head to look at things. Pleased with Alex’s progress, the eye doctor felt that the glasses and eye therapy had achieved what he had wanted them to do, and he believed that Alex no longer needed the glasses or the eye exercises. We were amazed by how rapidly this therapy worked and delighted with the results. I put away Alex’s little glasses, which I recently rediscovered in our linen closet a few weeks ago.

This summer, Ed and I went for our annual eye exams and found that both of us needed new glasses, and I also needed a new pair of contact lenses. Apparently, Alex felt left out of this routine, and he kept asking to go to the eye doctor. Unsure of how well he could cooperate with the exam and feeling fairly certain his eyes were fine, we kept delaying making an appointment. Finally, I decided taking him to the eye doctor was easier than listening to him nag me, and I made an appointment for him this past Monday. Thankfully, the staff was very understanding of his sensory issues, and he was quite cooperative about doing the tasks they asked of him. The optometrist explained to Alex everything he was going to do, which seemed to reassure him and allowed him to get through the appointment smoothly. As the eye doctor had Alex read aloud the letters on the eye chart, Alex easily breezed through the first several lines. However, when he got to the smaller print, he suddenly stopped. When the optometrist asked him if he could read that line, Alex told him no. Since Alex’s eyesight has always been perfect, I thought at first Alex was just being uncooperative, but he didn’t really seem like he was being difficult. After the eye doctor placed some corrective lenses in front of him, Alex began reading the small print aloud, almost excitedly that he could now see the letters he could not see before.

The optometrist’s diagnosis was that Alex’s eyes are very healthy and his vision is good at 20/30. However, he felt that Alex could benefit from wearing glasses to improve his distance vision. After his eye exam, we helped Alex pick out a pair of frames (durable, like the ones he wore at age five—even the same brand), but he seemed rather uninterested in the choices and trusted us to make the final decision. Since his eyes tend to be light sensitive, we also opted for the transition lenses that darken in bright light, allowing his glasses to also double as sunglasses, which he always wears outside. The optician took all the needed measurements and told us that the glasses would be ready in about ten days. We wondered how much Alex would pester us in that time about when he would get his new glasses.

Fortunately, Alex waited patiently for his glasses to arrive, and we were surprised that they were ready to be picked up on Friday. Once again, he handled this experience well, calmly cooperating as the optician adjusted the glasses for him, and he was content to wear them. As we drove various places over the next couple of days, he seemed to enjoy looking out the windows more and making comments on things he spotted with his improved vision. He appears to have adapted well to wearing them, even asking, “Where are my glasses?” upon awakening the first morning after he got them. While we wish his perfect eyesight had continued, we’re pleased that he had a good experience at the optometrist’s office, he has a positive attitude about wearing glasses, and his vision can be easily corrected. Once again, Alex has shown us his remarkable flexibility, despite the tendency for people with autism to dislike change, as well as his tendency to see new experiences as adventures and not something to be feared. While we often worry that he may not adapt to situations, he thankfully proves us wrong, and we are grateful that he does.

“At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and He restored sight to many who were blind.” Luke 7:21

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