Taking a reluctant child to an optometrist appointment can be an ordeal for even the most patient parent, as you may find yourself struggling to maintain a positive and calm attitude amidst your own vision-related worries. This struggle can be amplified if your child is on the autism spectrum or is otherwise non-verbal, as many of the routine tests that can indicate vision problems require the patient to describe what he or she is seeing. What should you do if you suspect your non-verbal child is dealing with vision problems he or she can't communicate to you? Read on to learn more about visiting an optometrist with your non-verbal child as well as what you can do to make this process easier on all involved.
How will an optometrist diagnose and treat your child's vision issues?
Because vision problems can crop up at any age, with some toddlers and even babies requiring vision correction through glasses or surgery, optometrists have designed a number of ways to test vision even on those who aren't able to communicate well enough to point out their own vision issues. An optometrist may cover one of your child's eyes and ask him or her to track a small object to see whether each eye is able to focus independently or may even observe your child at play with brightly colored blocks or rings to see whether there are any motor skill issues that could indicate a vision problem. Some children may also be able to identify shapes or animals rather than letters or numbers, matching the shapes that appear on the screen to a list in front of them until the images are too small to clearly see.
What can you do to make an optometrist visit easier for your child?
There are a few steps you can take before and during your child's optometrist appointment that can help it flow much more smoothly.
The first is to role-play the process at home a few times so that your child will become more comfortable with the prospect of someone else examining his or her eyes (and will know what to expect at the visit). Because any changes to routine can be especially jarring to children on the autism spectrum, simply knowing how an appointment is structured and what will take place can provide a great source of comfort.
You may also want to purchase a book or two that focuses on vision screenings in a child-friendly and developmentally appropriate way. Reading about events or procedures in a book is a great way to "normalize" them, and having a title character with whom your child can identify and empathize can not only make his or her appointment an easier process, but can also improve your child's social and coping skills.