Bloggy Moms

Friday, April 8, 2016

How I Helped My Daughter with Autism Feel at Ease at the Eye Doctor's

As part of my daughter triennial IEP, she was given an informal vision test by the school nurse. Sadly, but not surprisingly, she did not pass the far sighted portion of it. This means that she has trouble seeing things that are up close. We were told that she would probably need reading glasses.
 One of the reasons that I am not surprised that my daughter needed glasses is because she comes from a long line of spectacle wearers on both sides of her family. I myself have worn glasses since I was in fifth grade. For many years I needed to wear them to correct astigmatism and  for distance, nearsighted. In the last few years, my eye doctor added farsightedness. So yes I officially wear bifocals now. My husband has worn reading glasses for many years. He is now wearing his glasses most of the time. Many of my daughter's extended family also wear glasses.
I thought that being around all of these vision impaired people would make my daughter see that it was OK or even cool to wear glasses. We are not weird or odd. I was mistaken in this belief.
Like anything that is new or unfamiliar to my child, she became anxious about the thought of wearing them. The idea of the office visit itself brought on a lot of anxiety. My daughter is not alone in her feelings of overwhelming anxiety. Anxiety is almost synonymous with autism. My daughter will worry herself sick when presented with a new situation. Sometimes just thinking about something will overwhelm my girl.
The idea of getting new glasses made my daughter fret like a wet hen. She expressed to me on several occasions how nervous she was. Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
It just so happened that I needed to get my eyes checked for a new pair of glasses. I cannot go to my own eye doctor's appointment with Princess since I need to keep an eye on her so I scheduled mine the day before hers. While there I noted that there were two new optometric assistants whom I had not met before. I made it a point to get to know them. I had a plan.
Finally, the day of the exam came. After my daughter got home from school, I encouraged her to put on some comfortable clothes, not pajamas, as that is her go to outfit at home. I also made sure she got a snack.  She grabbed a book as well. All  of these actions were to make her life easier as well as mine. 
Once we arrived at the eye doctor's, we had to wait a bit.  On the way to the office, I had told Princess about the two new office members. I told her that one of them thought I was funny. I also let her know that the other one, a gentleman, seemed kind and helpful.Princess knows both of the doctors, a married couple, from church. She'd been to their office before, however, it had been awhile. When it was time for her to go back an office staff member brought Princess back. She wanted me to go with her so I did. I knew that once she saw Dr. R, she'd warm right up to him. That's exactly what happened. Once I saw that my daughter was at ease, I quietly excused myself so that I would not become a distraction. I also wanted my daughter to have a sense of independence. After the exam, Dr. R. informed me that Princess did indeed need a pair of reading glasses. We discussed easing her into wearing them by only having them at home. I suggested that after she saw how much they helped her with homework and reading at home, she would then want to use them at school as well.
Soon it was time for my little fashionista to pick out her glasses. The female staff member came over to assist her. Princess did not show any signs of apprehension or anxiety over this process. It was like she was picking out clothes with a trusted friend.
I'm so proud of my daughter. On this day she was confident and poised. Once the glasses arrived, there will be an adjustment period. I do anticipate that she will have anxiety over being teased about them. I know that her team at school and I will help her conquer this fear head on.
Bit by bit I am learning to instinctively help my child by easing her into things. Telling her ahead of time about the new office members helped her see that they were friendly and not scary.  Going back with her to the exam room and leaving when I sensed she was comfortable showed her that she doesn't always need me by her side. She knows that I'll be there if she does need my assistance. Suggesting that she wear her glasses at home assured her that she wasn't going to have to jump into something before she was ready. Finally, being in contact with her teacher and school staff will help boost her confidence. She knows these people and I have her back.
With just a few minor adjustments, my daughter will be rocking her new glasses in know time at all.

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