Saturday, April 5, 2008

InfantSEE

Hey there! My return flight was delayed so I got home from New Jersey with just enough time to tell my kids, "Hi! I love you guys! I missed you SO much. Bye again," as I headed off to rehearsal. I will be ever so glad when this play is over. If I so much as consider being in it next year, slap me!

Anyway, I have so very much to tell about the trip and things that I learned while there. I will be primarily writing about the trip on my other blog here so as not to violate my contract with BlogHer.

I do want to talk about one thing that I learned while in New Jersey here, however. How many of you have gotten your baby's vision checked? I'm not talking about the pediatrician showing your baby some pictures on a poster down the hall in their office. I'm talking about taking your 6-12 month old child to an opthamologist or optometrist and having their eyes dilated.

I admit that I never took any of my kids to the eye doctor before they were a year old. I mean, how can they do an eye exam on a baby, right? It's not like your six month old can tell you what letters or pictures they're seeing. My pediatrician never recommended that I take my babies to an eye doctor. The thought never crossed my mind. And I wasn't alone in my thinking.

In 2005, after president Jimmy Carter spoke to a group of optometrists, members of the American Optometric Association and The Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson joined forces to create InfantSEE. Jimmy Carter has two grandsons with vision problems that could have been treated if their eyes had been checked as infants. They had the insurance and money to take these boys for eye care. What they lacked was the awareness.

Dr. Scott Jens spoke to us about this program while I was in New Jersey and he told stories of how retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) was detected, thus saving a baby’s life, all because of this program. Granted, most of us aren’t going to get a diagnosis like that, but there are many other vision problems, that with early intervention, could save your infant’s sight.

My own daughter, Lexington, never had her eyes examined as an infant. In fact, she passed the vision test that was administered at school. I took her to an eye doctor for peace of mind because now and then I’d see her eyes cross a little. It wasn’t terribly noticeable and it wasn’t all the time, but still, I thought I would rather be safe than sorry. The eye doctor dilated her eyes and told me that she was terribly farsighted and would require glasses for life. It wasn’t a devastating diagnosis. Millions of people wear glasses to correct their vision. Still, I felt horrible that I hadn’t caught it earlier. Looking back at old pictures of Lexi, I cringe when I see her eyes crossed in them. All along I thought she was just doing a “stupid human trick” by making a goofy face and crossing her eyes. How could I not have known?

The answer is – I couldn’t have known. That’s what the eye doctor is for. That’s why every infant should be seen be an eye care professional. That’s why InfantSee was started. The best part of this – IT’S TOTALLY FREE! Just go to the InfantSEE website, and click on the "doctor locator” button. When I searched, more than a dozen doctors came up within 5 miles from me! It doesn’t matter what your income level is. It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not. Anyone can get a free eye exam for their infant under 12 months.

I asked Dr. Jens what he considered the best age to have a baby’s eyes checked and he said that he felt 9 months is ideal, but he stressed that anytime between 6 and 12 months is great!
So, please take advantage of this free program to ensure the health of your baby’s vision. And pass this on to everyone you know. I think it should especially be passed on to the pediatricians. Before this week, I’d never even heard of this program. I have 6 kids and not once did any pediatrician ever mention it to me. Your child’s pediatrician is a prime source of medical knowledge and advice. They need to be aware of this program so they can pass it on to their patients.
*******
Edited to add: Please pray for the Powell family as baby Ethan earned his angel wings today. :*(

36 comments:

Stephanie said...

GREAT post!!!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both have horrible vision, so when my eye doctor found out that we had our first child, they called us, to schedule an appt. for him, through the infantsee program. It has been great. We never found any problems, with either of my kids, but considering that my husband had glasses by the time he was two, I am thrilled that there is a program out there for this. Def. check it out if you have a baby.

LovinTimInMi said...

Totally not related to your post...but wasn't sure if you saw that Precious Ethan Powell passed away today. I noticed a few months ago that you had his site on your blog as blogs to watch....Many prayers for the Powell family!!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Aaargh! Dawn, you just couldn't let me go to bed tonight without having something else to feel guilty about, hmmm? Just one more ball that I've dropped...

chrysalis said...

wow..great info. i had not heard of that program either.

Brenda said...

Our youngest child is adopted from foster care. He joined our family at 3 yrs and 11 mths. We knew something was up and thought he couldn't hear. We had all kinds of testing done. Nothing. I took him to the eye doctor and his vision was horrible. When I look back through his records it looks like it greatly delayed his walking. I believe it contributed to some of his behaviors. Having a check up as an infant would have really benefited him. Thanks for sharing it.

Tiesha said...

Dawn-I've never posted a comment but read your blog regularly, and I LOVE it. I just had to post regarding the InfantSee program. I learned about this program, and at the time, my then almost 10 month old was having what appeared to be a distance perception issue. I took her to a local opthamologist, and it was SOOOO easy and they were GREAT with her. I have since recommended this program to any other mom I know! Thankfully, my daughter's vision is "technically" ok, but we now know that she has to be re-evaluated at age 3 and will most likely be nearsighted. I never would have known if not thanks to this program. Way to go for promoting it!

Sue R said...

I agree it's good to get an eye check for kids as young as possible. My 22 year old son seemed to be seeing fine, but at age 4 I found out that he had 20/20 vision in one eye and was very nearsighted in the other. We went through years of patching, and that eye will always be weaker than the other one, but he does see out of both eyes. If we hadn't caught it early, he would have lost the sight in one eye. With amblyopia, which is sometimes called lazy eye, the eyes can track together, and there's no way to tell there's a difference in sight without an eye test. Or, I could have asked him to cover one eye, and then the other, and tell me what he saw, but I never thought of it!

GE is me said...

Dawn, this sounds like an awesome thing & while I've never heard about this from my pediatrician or any of my mom friends; I'm somewhat disappointed. I went to the dr. locator on the website & my eye doctor's office is on there. Didn't specifically see my eye dr. but saw one of the main docs. from the practice, name on there. I'm pretty good about seeing my eye dr. regularly as I had laser eye surgery. I'm disappointed that she didn't mention anything to me about this program. I've even had my girls in with me before.
Things that make you go HMMMM.

momathome43kids said...

Hey Dawn,
Great post! When my firstborn son was less than a year old, I began to notice that his eyes didn't quite track together. It wasn't overly obvious, and really could only be noticed when he was tired. I pointed it out to my husband (an RN) and my mother-in-law, they both said no big deal, and that his eye had done it too and now it's just fine. Well, I felt stupid and thought maybe I was just overreacting. However, I just had a gut feeling that something wasn't right. Finally at 31 months old, I couldn't get the feeling to go away, and took him AGAIN to the pediatrician. The doctor looked at him with his little light, and didn't see anything, but referred me for my piece of mind. Long story short, (well, ok shorter) the ophthamologist examined him, and at first did not see anything wrong, UNTIL he dialated him. My son had a cataract, that was present at birth and could have been caught. Within two days we were in Atlanta having surgery. That was in 1999 and my son is now 11 years old. He does not have vision in that eye, other than blurrs of color, but does have full vision in the other eye. If we had caught this earlier, his chances would've been very good for full recovery. Moms, please don't hesitate to have your little ones checked, especially if you have that "gut feeling" something isn't quite right.

Mrs Nespy said...

Wow! I really had no idea. Thanks so much for the important information! You are doing a great job of passing along the news!

ScrapSmith said...

Great post Dawn! I work for an eye doctor and sadly in the year I've been there no one has used this free service. I'm glad you're getting the word out! I must say too that adults really shouldn't cringe when the doctor asks them if they want to be dilated or not - it may be uncomfortable for a few hours but it's AMAZING what the doctor can read/see by looking into your eye. I think there is a lot of misconceptions about eye health and exams and what does what - getting more info out there to the public is so needed. Thanks Dawn for adding more awareness. P.S. FYI - Refraction - when the dr says "Which is better A or B.." is when they are checking your vision/eye sight. Dilation - allows the doctor to check the inside of the eye and the health of your eye. Which in some cases can be an indicator to other body health concerns.

stephanie said...

Thanks for posting this!
My story is a bit different, my parents both have horrible vision, so they took me to the eye doctor early on in life (maybe a year old). I went every 6 months to a year and was in and out of glasses from age 8 and up, until I was 12 and stayed in them. When I was 13 I was told that I was crossed eyed and had minimal depth perseption and the only way to gain some back and to correct the problem was surgery. I still have some depth perseption problems to this day (at 29 years old) and never drive alone at night.

Anonymous said...

I had called my pediatricians office one day when my daughter was about 9 months old to tell them that I noticed that her eyes crossed every once in awhile. The nurse told me that was normal and not to worry about it. It was my first child and I still thought it was a wrong answer but didn't do anything else at that time. At about 1 I brought her into the dr's office because she was sick and before he even got through the door he said "I'll be right back" and left to get an eye dr's phone number for me because her eyes were crossing so bad. I told him I had called about it once before and the nurses said it was fine... I don't remember what he said I was just glad to know I was going to get some help for Cydney.
Anyway, she did have to have one surgery when she was 3 and is terribly farsighted. I just wish I had listened to my gut too when I first called the nurses line. Although I will say it taught me a lesson and I do keep asking and pushing for answers now when I feel people aren't listening and that has payed off time and time again.

sulli said...

I was so glad to see this post... I too thought there was no way to check vision on an infant. When my sone was a year old, he was what I thougt "a wild child" always running into walls and door frames. My mother in law talked me into brining him in for an eye exam. the poor child was nearly legally blind. So now, if anyone mentions to me about thier clumsy child, I always always tell them to get the vision checked. I am really surprised still to this day, how many of those clumsy children end up wearing glasses.

Dawn said...

I worked as an optometric technician for several years and saw lots of kids as part of the InfantSee program. As some of the other posters mentioned, amblyopia is a fairly common diagnosis for small children, and it's frequently only caught with dilation, because kids have remarkable ability to accommodate. The issue with amblyopia is that the brain is struggling to reconcile the funky input from two eyes not quite working together. Eventually, the brain gets tired of that and "shuts off" the signal it gets from one eye, which can lead to blindness or greatly decreased vision. And, it's very treatable if caught early.

Also...if you are choosing an eye doctor, don't just go to one in the InfantSee program. Ask how many kids they see, and look for one who is good with kids.

~Shell said...

Infantsee is a great program. I wish I had known about it for my oldest, but my youngest did benafit from the program and I am happy to say all turned out to look great at that appointment nearly a year ago now. The Dr we saw was terrific with my kids, and the peace of mind and lack of financial strain were both great!

Heather said...

It is very important, and also parents need to alert their doctors and PRESS the matter. My nephew (born Nov. 1, 2007) is a doll. My sister-in-law noticed a slight grey spot on his eye one day. The doctor said "it's nothing, babies eyes change, it will go away." This was in December. In January, she pushed the issue, got a referral (dang insurance requirements!!) to the opthalmologist who found that he has a cataract in that eye. For now, they will go in every few months to check it, and as long as it doesn't change, they can hold off on having it removed until he's old enough to have a new lens put on (2-1/2 years old). But the pediatrician didn't think twice about telling them "it was nothing" on the first visit. Thankfully, the pediatrician took her seriously on the 2nd visit. (No fault to the pediatrician, how often do infants have cataracts??)

If in doubt, push for more. Ultimately, had this not been caught and had it blocked his vision enough, he would have gone blind in that eye as his brain would have simply stopped acknowledging it.

~~Heather

BarbJ said...

Dawn - today's post hit close to my heart as BOTH of my sons (6 and 4) wound up in glasses in the last month. DS #1 is farsighted and has accomodative esotropia (eyes crossing to try to self correct far sightedness). I NEVER noticed his eyes crossing, not one time, neither did any of his daycare providers or teachers. DS #2 has severe astigmatisms in both eyes and is extremely nearsighted - the eye doc actually said to Hubs "I don't know how this child sees ANYTHING!" The only reason we had taken DS #1 in for an exam is because his endocrinologist (he also has Type 1 Diabetes) had suggested it as part of his routine yearly care and the only reason we took DS #2 was to make sure he didn't have the same issues big brother had! So now I feel like a horrible horrible mother because BOTH of my boys were having vision problems and I was completely clueless!

As we were paying for DS #2's glasses the girl at the counter pointed at the InfantSEE sign and said "too bad you didn't bring him in earlier, we could have helped him so much sooner." Not said in a judgemental tone, but very matter of fact. Problem is - I had never HEARD of InfantSEE before that day! Why aren't flyers for this handed out at every baby's 6 month check up?!? Hubs and I both wear glasses, if we had known the program was out there you can bet we would have taken the boys in so much earlier!

So bless you for promoting the program and I urge ALL parents, no matter how old your child is or whether you think he/she is having problems or not, to go have a dialated eye exam done on your child ASAP!

Crysi said...

My 13 month old daughter's going to the eye doctor later this month because her right eye wanders. The only eye check her ped ever did was up close, but she has problems focusing at a distance.

Becs said...

Thank you for sharing about a wonderful program that I knew about, but did not take advantage of. At 18 months, I noticed my daughter with a slight crossing and brought her in. She has since had surgery and still wears glasses (for life). Not life threatening, but could have probably forewent surgery had I noticed sooner (and in pictures I dont see how I missed it). Any more children we have, we were told we must get them checked before 1 year. Had only I known.

As a new mom, there is so much you are doing and taking in that the last thing you think about are vision checks, so its great for moms to share this information with eachother. THanks!

30 Minute Mommy said...

Interesting! My father is an optician and I know he has fit many tiny little babies with glasses. I have never asked him about having Eliza's eyes checked this young. I am going to bring it up to him now. Thanks for the info.

Angie said...

Hi,

Had to weigh in my 2 cents. It is REALLY important to have vision and hearing both checked when your kids are VERY young. During the first year(s) of life, the brain is learning how to wire itself so that it can see and hear. If for some reason it isn't getting any input (i.e. cataract, damage to ear) then that part of the brain is put to work doing something else. So if a serious problem exists and it isn't taken care of, then the child may completely lose that ability altogether.

I was born with congenital cataracts. Four eye surgeries (and a few neurobiology classes) later I am REALLY glad my mom took me in to the opthamologist "just in case". My uncle's cataracts weren't found until much later and he is nearly blind.

My husband was slightly less lucky. He was born VERY cross-eyed. He had one eye-surgery at 9mo. but didn't get another until much later. The first surgery wasn't sufficient to align the eyes, so his brain learned to ignore one eye. He's had two more surgeries since then but he can't see out of one eye and probably never will.

With our history, you can bet we'll be taking in our kids as young as the opthamologist will let us :)

Mabunny said...

Wow Dawn, what an eye opening post. I have never heard of that program..Thanks for getting the info out there. And I willkeep the Powell family in my prayers.

Janet said...

Dawn,
Without the long drawn out story my 15 year old son lost his left eye to retinoblastoma when he was
2. We did catch it before it did any more damage to his body.
Happily he is now a healthy normal teenager know as the kid with one eye.
Eye exams you bet all of my other 5 children have had eye exams starting within a month of being born.
Wish I had know about the program it would have saved my thousand of dollars.
No less any mother or father that sees even a glimsed of something in your childs eye take him/her to an eye doctor not your pediatrician but an eye doctor.
Thanks for helping us all be better equipped at parenting.

bestfamily said...

Dawn,
I totally get where you are coming from. My oldest MacKenzie passed all her eye exams with flying colors. But she has suffered from migraines since she was arond 2 years old. I went and had her vision checked by an opthamalogist this past Jan. after nothing else could be found to cause the headaches. Her vision is crazy! Farsighted in one eye, near sighted in the other! With an astigmatism. I was in shock. Hope your daughter does better with her glasses than kenzie does. Two pairs in 3 months already!

Karla with a K said...

I'll add my 2 cents as well, as a mom of 2 out of 4 kids farsighted with amblyopia. My oldest got his glasses at age 3, my youngest at not even 2. This affliction can skip a generation. I have never worn glasses, nor my husband, but my mom is half blind without her glasses.

As others have said, be persistent. We brought oldest in at about age 2 - 2 1/2. Pediatric eye Dr. found nothing (so unfortunately, insurance didn't pay.) 6 months later we were back - he dilated my son - and found his vision in his weak eye to be 20/200.

To repeat others again, it is treatable. Both sons have used a patch to strengthen the weak eye.
I think my oldest son's vision (with glasses) is 20/20 in one eye and 20/15 (in the "good eye"?) now.

Just a request if you see a child with a patch. Many people innocently commented to both boys things like, "Hey, are you a pirate?!" A better choice we've heard is, "Hey, cool patch!" Or sharing a story if you know someone or had a child who also patched. They both got used to wearing it, and in different degrees were able to explain "it makes my weak eye stronger." They also had to learn to handle the occasional "what's wrong with your son?" But we always responded very nonchalantly that they have lazy eye and you patch the "good eye" to make the brain use the weak eye. I think people just don't know, and the pirate comments were never well received.

Thanks for the important topic. And for printing everyone's 2 cents.
Karla

AuntyM said...

Thank you so much! I'm going to send this information to my family. I have a 3-month old grand-daughter, and there are 3 doctors within 5 miles where they live. This is a fabulous program and doubtless will save the sight of many, many children! Bless you.

Michelle said...

Wow, I'm in the group that had never heard of this, but I wish I had. And the comment about the "clumsy" child not seeing well really hits home. Little Miss constantly runs into things, trips over things, falls, etc. I now wonder if maybe that's why.

The bummer is that (obviously) we've been to the pediatrician a ton of times and never had it mentioned. Plus, she was in the Early Intervention Program since she was 6 months (graduated last August 31... because we couldn't find an OT available) and no one there ever mentioned that as a cause for her clumsiness or suggested it in general.

So, stupid question, how do I find a good pediatric eye doctor? Is there a good website referral? Is there something to look for or ask when talking to various ones?

Here's hoping it's nothing -- but what an eye-opening (no pun intended, I swear!) bit of information.

Thanks, Dawn! Glad you made it home safely!

Michelle
www.honestandtruly.blogspot.com

ilo said...

Hi,

Woaw, this is very cool. We live in South Africa, and my husband is an optometrist. Off course sent this on to him immediately. As a child, he was also on identified with a problem at the age of 12, if picked up earlier, he need not have worn specs.

Our son is 1 year old, but the 1st thing dad did after he was born, was check out his eyes. Also had him sent to an ophalmologist to have him checked out, so far so good! BUT, this good be of GREAT help to him in his practice. Would be great if we could have this started in South Africa too.

Cheers!
ilo

Angie said...

RE: Finding a pediatric opthamologist

It's probably not absolutely necessary to have a pediatric opthamologist but if there is one within your financial means and a reasonable driving distance its a good idea. They will have more understanding of working with kids, have more knowledge of the relevant medical disorders, and will have specialized stuff for kids (i.e. smaller equipment, eye-charts that don't require reading ability, and the ever-important waiting room full of toys).

As for finding a pediatric opthamologist, try a referral (from your pediatrician and regular opthamologist) or the yellow pages. If need be just call all the InfantSEE doctors in your area and ask if they specialize in working with children. There are also a few websites which will output the name of local Drs. but require you to give personal information (i.e. address):
http://www.children-special-needs.org/vision_therapy/directory_eye_doctors.html
http://www.aao.org/find_eyemd.cfm

Amy said...

Thank you, Dawn for raising the awareness of Childhood eye problems. When my son was screened for preschool, the nurse, who also happens to be my best friend, noticed that he did great with his right eye, but was very upset we she got to the left eye. So she did it again and the same thing. He was very calm and cooperative with the right, but furiously uncooperative with the left. She suggested that we take him to an eye doctor for a follow-up. Come to find out, he was legally blind in the left eye. He was diagnosed with severe ambliopia. Thank goodness we were able to catch it in time. The brain only has a certain window for things to be fixed. We took him to a pediatric opthamologist. He has started wearing glasses, and is patching as well. The Dr. thinks we can get him to 20/20 by the time he is in middle school. The brain can generally be retrained with eyesight until a child is 9-10 years old. When we looked back at some of the instances with our son, we started to see a pattern of injuries. At the time we just thought he was a little clumsy. But now, all the left side bumps and bruises make sense. He has made significant progress. Since I have a very similar problem, the doctor considered it a genetic disorder so when I was pregnant with #4, he suggested that I bring the baby in when she was 6 months old. At that time, it was discovered that her eyesight was just as bad, but it was in both eyes. Since she really wasn't having any problems, the Dr. opted to monitor her every 4 months and see if her eyesight was making progress. She has made significant progress and is doing great. It is so important to have your children' eyes examined at an early age. Without the preschool screening we would never have known about my son. His right eye was doing all the work so it didn't look like he was having any problems. He could see, but now he can see somewhat clearly out of both eyes. Thanks again, Dawn.

Barbara Manatee said...

Thanks for sharing this. I will have to share this link with my MOMs group. I wish I'd know about it before my twins were a year old. they were preemies and my whole family wears glasses. And sure enough, there's a doctor just miles away! Great job spreading the word!

Luke and Gina said...

I got this information in the mail last summer, my daughter was 8 months old at the time. I thought it was great, so I went to the website and got a list of Doctors in my area, got their contact info and phoned them. I mentioned to the lady why I was calling and explained the InfantSEE program, to which she didn't react either positive or negative, so I asked about making an appointment for my daughter and she kindly, but abruptly told me that they don't offer check-ups for infants.
I felt so dumb that I threw the pamphlet away and never looked into it again. Of course now my daughter is over 1, and her pediatrician never mentioned it.

Mystii said...

Thank you so much for posting about this topic Dawn! I had never heard of the InfantSee program and I don't think my daughter has either. My grandson is 27 months old now and, although he isn't showing any signs of eye programs, I recommended InfantSee to my daughter. I can't imagine why pediatricians don't bring this up at the well baby checks! Thank you again for raising awareness on this important issue!

Fran said...

OK so, I'm trying to get caught up on your blog. I promise, I'm not crazy! ;-) Anyway, I wanted to thank you for posting about the Infantsee program. I had never heard of it until I came upon this post today. I just scheduled my twins' free exam and threw in my almost 4 year old for good measure. I wish I had known about this program for him but, better late than never I suppose. I was prescribed glasses in high school and my brother has been wearing them since he was about 4 years old so I'm already feeling good about getting my kids' eyes checked early on. :-)

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