By Danielle Crull, ABOM

We all have that great aunt with a pair of reading glasses for every outfit. The grandmother with a pair of readers in literally every room, tossed on counters and shoved into purses. My grandfather used to shake his dollar store readers at me and say, “See these, Dani? $1!” and proceed to dramatically toss the crooked pair of glasses on the counter. And of course, we are all familiar with the, “I can’t find my glasses!” only to see them adorning that person’s head.

With computers, tablets and other devices being used consistently in the classroom and at home, the need for kids to have near-assist glasses is increasing. More and more kids are complaining of headaches and eye fatigue related to all these near tasks. The solution is often glasses prescribed for near tasks only.

If reading glasses are problematic for your average adult, just imagine how difficult it is for kids. Getting a child to wear glasses full-time is a challenge, but I find the part-time glasses wearing for kids daunting at best. To top it off, reading glasses for kids are prescribed generally to ease eye discomfort, to relax accommodation so they don’t have the acute visual need that your grandfather does. Basically your grandfather will look for his reading glasses because he literally cannot read without them. But a child will often read with little difficulty not using their glasses, but then later on suffer the side-effects of fatigue and headaches. Kids have difficulty recognizing their needs at the moment. That means if their glasses aren’t readily available they will not go look for them.

So how do we get kids to treat their reading glasses, better than their grandparents?

One solution that is often prescribed by the doctor is, full-time wear by using a multi-focal lens design. But these are often expensive and not the answer for every kiddo.

Multiple pairs can be a solution. A child can have a pair at school and a pair at home. They also can have a pair in the car or by their computer at home. This can get costly for families, because there really are no “kids” reading glasses found at your local dollar store or pharmacy. One way you can service this need better for your patients is to offer inexpensive readers for kids by putting lenses in discontinued frames and making them available. This really isn’t my favorite solution, but it can help, and it will at the very least make the glasses available at the time of need.

What I like to do, upon dispensing, is come up with a plan. After adjusting, checking vision, and discussing proper care, I talk with the child. Setting up good habits and instilling a value for vision is so important.

It goes something like this, “These glasses are to help you look at things that are close. Close things are the things you can reach with your hands.” Then I’ll ask them, “What things do you look at up close?” We generally go through the school work, computer, phone, iPad, video games list. And then I ask the most important question, “How do you see these glasses fitting into your life? You wake up in the morning and then what?”

I’ll go through the game plan for a normal school day. We talk about when to wear them, when not to wear them. We talk about remembering to bring them to school and remembering that they’ll need them at home too so they'll need to get back in that backpack. School age kids are often ready to take on the responsibility once they understand what needs to be done. Of course, I remind them that these glasses are to help with the side effects that they have been experiencing, like eye fatigue and headaches. We agree together that wearing the glasses to prevent those side effects is worth the care.

Reading glasses for kids feels like asking a lot, especially when we have such bad models in many of their adult role models. But with some time and care it can be done successfully, matching the right solution to the right child.