This podcast was produced in partnership with Transitions Optical.
When it comes to prescribing glasses for children, protecting their eyes from UV light exposure found both indoors and outdoors is essential to a lifetime of ocular health. Our podcast guest today is Christine Howard, an optician at Attleboro Vision Care and a Transitions Change Agent. She started her career in optical as an interning high school student. She attended college to become an elementary school teacher, but upon graduating in 2008 during the difficult Recession years, she had to supplement her teacher’s salary with moonlighting at a local optical. When she got the opportunity to work full time at her optical, she took the leap and has never looked back. Her educational background has been extremely useful in connecting with patients and properly explaining the benefits of the glasses that were prescribed.
One of the most important things she educates parents about is the importance of getting kids in to see the doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. The American Optometric Association recommends that a child’s first eye exam should be between 6 months to 12 months of age to rule out vision threatening issues like tumors or congenital cataracts. They should then have another eye exam at least once between ages 3 and 5, and then annually thereafter through age 18. Howard finds that most parents are very unfamiliar with the need for pediatric eye exams, and she makes a point of educating every parent that comes into her office with kids about this recommendation. Parents are often under the mistaken opinion that if their child is having problems with vision, they will let them know. “Kids don’t know what they don’t know,” Howard explains. If a child has always had vision difficulties, that abnormal vision is their normal. According to a study by VSP, half of all children in the US have never had an eye exam. As eyecare providers we’re charged with doing a better job of educating the public about the need for comprehensive exams!
If a child does need glasses, how can we engage them in the process?
In today’s climate, children are typically more excited about wearing glasses than in generations past, but that is not true across the board. Howard shares that it’s essential to communicate with the child directly and engage them with their likes and preferences. If a child is very reluctant or upset about the idea of glasses, find something that they are interested in and connect glasses to that. She shares the story of a young boy who was upset about needing glasses, but a big fan of Marvel comics. Once she connected with him by discussing Tony Stark’s glasses, he became very excited to look like his idol, Iron Man. For older children, Dr. Glover shares his tactic that educating them that they can improve their scores on video games can go a long way to getting them to wear their glasses.
When fitting kids with glasses, Howard treats children very much like adults. Lifestyle considerations are the key foundation. Children naturally lead a more active lifestyle, so she educates the need for durable, well-fitting frames with impact resistant lens materials. Another key consideration is time spent outside. Studies have shown that 50% of our lifetime UV exposure occurs before age 20. Additionally, a child’s eyes are less able to protect against UV exposure because the lens is still clear as it is developing. Prescribing UV protection is essential to children’s eyewear. Howard recommends Transitions® lenses to protect children’s eyes indoors and out.
What happens if a parent pushes back about the lenses that were prescribed?
Howard, Dr. Glover and Dr. Lyerly agree that children are typically very onboard with UV protection when it is presented in a way that makes their glasses feel unique and customized to their personal style. Dr. Lyerly shares that her go-to wording for Transitions® lenses for children is to say “we’re putting sunscreen in your glasses to protect your eyes. What color do you want your sunscreen to be?” For younger children Howard uses the concept of “magic glasses” that change colors. But what do you do if a parent pushes back about UV protection in their child’s glasses? Howard explains that if a parent pushes back on Transitions® lenses, it’s most often due to their misconceptions about the aesthetics of the eyewear about them being tinted indoors. Educating parents about how the Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™ lenses are crystal clear indoors, and the importance of wearing sunscreen in a child’s glasses for long term health benefits is the key to parent buy-in. “Parents don’t think twice about putting sunscreen on their children to go outside, so sun protection in the glasses should be a no brainer,” Howard explains.
When it comes to harmful blue light exposure, children are spending more time than ever on devices but we shouldn’t forget the biggest source of harmful blue light is the sun! Howard recommends Transitions® lenses because they protect from harmful blue light indoors and out. In today’s world, parents commonly come into the eye exam concerned about the amount of screen time their child is getting. The World Health Organization just released new guidelines for screen exposure that we can all share during exams. Infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens, at all. For children aged 2-4 no more than 1 hour of sedentary screen time each day is recommended. In addition to the potential health risks of harmful blue light, the worldwide rates of myopia are sky rocketing and being sedentary indoors is a major contributing risk. If a parent is concerned about how much time their child is spending on devices, educating them on recommendations, prescribing protection in their eyeglasses lenses, and also encouraging parents they have to set a good example with their own screen time behaviors is a great approach.
How can we better educate parents about the risks of purchasing their children’s eyewear online?
Howard explains that the major driving factor when parents consider buying their kids’ glasses online is cost. She makes a point of educating the value of the eyewear offered in her optical, explaining that the glasses parents purchase online may not offer warranties if something breaks, and they also wouldn’t be getting the benefits of personal service throughout the year for adjustments or repairs. Howard shares that once she shares the study findings that 44.8% of online eyewear is made with the incorrect prescription of parameters, that fact alone is enough to make parents reconsider.
One of the best ways to get the conversation started in your optical about the need for sports specific eyewear is a great display! Make sure you feature your athletic eyewear with displays that include sports equipment like baseball bats or mitts. This helps cue the parent and child that they should be thinking about eyewear specifically for their sport. Howard shares that in her optical, they have had great success with this approach and offering frames that can be customized with a child’s team colors and their jersey number. The goal is to make sports eyewear an essential part of their uniform in addition to providing the all-important protection against injury and UV damage.