How to Get Your Child to Wear a Patch
If your child has a visual impairment, they might have a prescription for eye patching. An eye patch is either an adhesive sticker or a cloth patch that’s worn over one eye. You may be wondering, “How on earth am I ever going to convince my child to wear a patch over their eye?”
The teachers from A Shared Vision get this question all the time. They provide strategies and support for families who have very young children, from birth to age three, with blindness, visual impairments, and vision concerns.
Why Does My Child Have to Wear a Patch?
If your child has been prescribed a patch, it is because they have a condition called amblyopia, where one eye has not developed vision as fast or as completely as the other eye. The eye with the poorer vision is called the amblyopic eye, commonly referred to as “lazy eye.” Amblyopia is a common eye diagnosis, affecting two or three out of 100 people. Amblyopia can be caused by strabismus, which is when the eyes are misaligned, crossed, or when one eye “wanders.” Amblyopia can also be caused by a refractive error, or anything that blocks vision during the critical period of visual development, such as a cataract or a droopy eyelid. Over time, the brain may permanently “turn off” input from the misaligned eye to avoid double vision, leaving a child without any vision in the weaker eye.
To develop better vision, the child must be made to use the weaker eye. A pediatric ophthalmologist will prescribe patching, or covering, the stronger eye for a period of time each day. Patching the stronger eye forces the brain to rely on the weaker eye and ultimately encourages the weaker eye to develop better vision over time. In children who are unable to patch reliably, amblyopia may be treated by blurring the vision in the better eye with eye drops or occluded lenses. Your child’s eye doctor will work with you to determine the best course of treatment.
Very young children can be resistant to wearing a patch because it will be harder for them to see once their stronger eye is covered with an eye patch. That’s where your Early Intervention Teacher of the Visually Impaired (EI-TVI) can help you and your child carry out a successful patching routine. They can explain what the patching is trying to accomplish and offer many helpful strategies for developing a patching routine. Most of all, they’re there to support you and celebrate successes, even small ones.
Here are some pointers on how to get your child to wear a patch. We also found some tips on the For Little Eyes website, a community forum for parents who have children that wear glasses, patches, or contacts.
Putting on the Patch
Here are some other tips for putting on or taking off the patch.
Getting Around with a Patch
It can feel scary and disorienting for a child to lose a portion of their functional vision when beginning a patching routine. They will not be able to see with both eyes (stereovision), and consequently they will not have depth perception. Depth perception allows your child to see things in three dimensions: length, width, and depth. It also allows your child to judge how far away objects are in space. They miss drop-offs, bump into things, or trip when they’re wearing the patch. Here are some tips for traveling with a patch on.
Even though it’s hard, many families have established a successful patching routine with their child. Keep your sense of humor and remember these last tips.
photos: For Little Eyes