As a mother, there are just certain things you know you need to do for your children. No one knows that better than Kelly Fitch, 40, of Little Hocking. When Fitch's son, Devin, was 15 months old he was having vision problems.
"His vision was so bad at the beginning but we caught it early," she said. "(Seeking treatment) was something we just had to do, regardless (of finances)."
Devin, now 6 and a kindergarten student at Barlow-Vincent Elementary, needed glasses to correct a muscle development issue and also was nearsighted. Specialists at Nationwide Children's Hospital have been working with Devin and his family and if all goes well, Devin could be without glasses as early as next week.
ERIN O’NEILL The Marietta Times
Renea Ball, a school nurse with Marietta City Schools, asks a Harmar Elementary student to identify shapes on an eye chart Thursday afternoon at the school. Children are screened through the schools beginning in kindergarten.
"It's just amazing to see how much they have been corrected," Fitch said.
Devin isn't alone, however. Many grade school age children are being prescribed glasses to deal with a variety of vision problems.
Renea Ball, a registered nurse who works for Marietta City Schools, works with students and parents when a school screening indicates that a child might have a vision problem.
Signs your child may need glasses
Holding books close to face when reading
Squinting, tilting, turning head or closing one eye to look at things
Losing place when reading or using finger as a guide
Difficulty seeing blackboard or Smartboard
Excessive blinking or eye rubbing
Complaining of headaches
Source: Times research
Things to look for in glasses
High-impact or polycarbonite lenses
Styles in colors or with characters that the child likes
Frames that will grow with your child to extend the length of time they are able to be worn
Justin Bieber-style plastic frames and bright colors are currently popular
Glasses that are covered by warranty
Source: Patty Carpenter, Eye Care Associates
"Unfortunately, the state only requires that we do distance screening so we recommend that students be seen at least once a year by an optometrist, who can check for diseases of the eye or muscle problems," Ball said.
On the elementary level, kindergarten, first-, third- and fifth-grade students are screened in the fall.
"We understand at this age there may be a problem with understanding the directions so we screen twice before we send a referral home to the parents," Ball said.
Often Dr. Matt Ingram and the other doctors at Eye Care Associates in Marietta see these referrals. The office is also a provider of the American Optometric Association's InfantSEE program, which offers vision assessments for infants in their first year of life, free of charge. A vision clinic is also offered through the city of Marietta and the Washington County Health Department once a quarter.
"School screenings can catch a lot of children that have eye problems but they can't really take the place of a comprehensive eye exam," Ingram said.
Nearsightedness, or myopia, tends to come on in a hurry with grade schoolers and particularly middle schoolers, while farsightedness, or hyperopia, is something that many children have at birth.
"Genetics is the biggest factor but there are other factors that can contribute to nearsightedness," Ingram said. Some signs to look for are squinting, headaches and avoidance of school work. Ingram said it is recommended that children are seen at age 3, at the start of school and once the child starts school, once a year.
And while the biggest concern for mom and dad may be for their child to be able to see better, some parents are also concerned that their child will be embarrassed to wear glasses or it will be a daily struggle to locate, clean and take care of the spectacles.
Luckily, according to Patty Carpenter, an employee of Eye Care Associates with "40-plus" years of experience, times have changed and children today aren't usually made fun of for wearing glasses.
"The trends have been really fun to look at over the years," she said. "Kids are really excited about getting glasses today."
Fitch, who said that her young son is one of two in his class with glasses, noted that he didn't feel uncomfortable at all having to wear glasses and that he hasn't had to deal with any name calling.
"For him, it's second nature. He does everything with his glasses except go to bed," she said.
Getting the child involved in the process of choosing glasses is an important part of having the child accept his or her new look.
"It really helps for the parents to talk to the child before they come in, find out what their favorite color is or talk about someone they know that has glasses. There are even books to read," said Carpenter.
It is also important to look for glasses that are going to grow with the child and could last a little longer.
Typically it is recommended that glasses be adjusted every six months.