Daniel was an active four-year-old boy in a mid-sized Texas town when his parents and pre-school teacher noticed what appeared to be the early signs of amblyopia (also known as lazy eye). Lazy eye can lead to compromised vision and even legal blindness if left untreated. His parents and teacher knew he had to see a doctor—quickly. So his parents scheduled an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination.

Photo credit Daniel was given multiple diagnoses. He was diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (misaligned or crossed-eyes), and myopia (nearsightedness). Young Daniel was going blind in his right eye. Daniel had few options. Already, his vision had deteriorated to a degree that he had limited depth perception. His first ophthalmologist recommended surgery as the only viable option. Not happy with the invasiveness of surgery, the parents sought a second opinion. The second ophthalmologist suggested that vision training could correct the condition without surgery. He began vision training right away. It started with a patch. The first step in Daniel’s vision therapy was to use a patch. The patch is worn on the good eye and it forces the weak eye to work extra hard. This workout of the eye increases its ability to function properly. Patches have proven to be a great start for lazy eye vision therapy. But getting a four-year-old kid to wear a patch to school, where kids can tease and ridicule, presents a challenge for even the most experienced of Super Moms. Miss Katherine to the rescue. Fortunately for Daniel, his pre-school teacher is the kind of teacher we wish upon every child. Miss Katherine knew it would be a problem when he came back to school wearing a patch, and if the first day in the patch went badly, he might never agree to wear the patch again. So she implemented a brilliant plan. On Daniel’s return to school, she scheduled a “Pirate for a Day” event. Everyone came dressed as a pirate, and class activities were centered on learning about pirates. There were pirate stories, pirate art projects, and many kids covered one eye with a patch.

Photo credit “Pirate for a Day” was such a hit, that Daniel’s continued use of his patch gained him a bit of pre-school envy. He was the cool kid on campus for the rest for the year. After wearing the patch for a year or so, Daniel’s eye became stronger, and vision therapy began in earnest. Daniel visited the ophthalmologist three to five times each week where he would play hand-eye coordination games and work with tools that helped train his eye to respond and function properly. And it ended with a snowflake. During the second year, his vision was greatly improved. At a family outing to a 3-D movie, Daniel’s mom nearly burst into tears when she saw Daniel, along with all the other kids in the theater, reach out to grab a snowflake that he perceived was falling in front of his face. He was 6 years old that day at the theater.  Shortly after that movie experience, his visits to the ophthalmologist were less frequent and his vision improved greatly. Fast forward to age 13. His years of hard work paid off. Daniel is now 13 years old. He’s a smart kid who does well in school, plays chess, is on the soccer team, and had his first, brief romance this year for a week following his middle school’s Valentine’s dance. He wears glasses, but they’re just like any other kids’ glasses that correct his vision. What you need to know. If you suspect your child has vision impairments of any sort, make an appointment to see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. The younger the patient is, the more effective the treatment plan. Early detection and early treatment can save your child from years of visual hardship.