When you first hold your newborn and have counted 10 fingers and 10 toes, there is a sigh of relief that you delivered a healthy baby who will progress in development and growth. Dr. Nicole Long-Fratangelo, an optometrist at Bissell Eye Care, recently had her second child and shares her story with new parents.
Dr. Nicole Long-Fratangelo in her own words…..
Everything was perfect. Alessio was born a healthy, beautiful baby boy. He was gaining weight and thriving. It was an exciting time for our family, we had just bought a new house and were in the process of moving. Alessio was three months old and while I was packing up my optometry equipment I decided to take a quick look at his eyes. My older, two-year-old son, Enzio, already had a full exam when he was six months old.
However, since I had my scope out I took a quick peek at both boys’ eyes and noticed that Alessio’s eyes had an abnormal reflex. A red reflex appears as the light bounces off the retina, and an eye doctor can use a special scope to read the prescription. I wasn’t too worried since a baby’s eyes can change a lot in the first few months after birth. I decided I would take him to the office for a full exam in a few weeks once things settled down a bit.
In the time between our move and his full exam, I started to notice that Alessio wasn’t developing his fine motor skills as quickly as our first child. When I voiced my concerns, I was told, “All kids develop differently.” But I still worried. Alessio did not seem to grab for things and was often looking down at his legs and feet. He was not sitting straight or lifting his head up to look around like our first son, and something just seemed off.
At Alessio’s 4 month visit with his pediatrician, I shared my concern. Alessio’s eyes were straight and he showed no obvious signs of a vision disorder that the pediatrician could see. Many eye diseases, including high farsightedness, are often difficult to detect without a thorough eye exam. I told my pediatrician that I would be giving him an exam that included dilation.
You might wonder why dilate, particularly an infant? This allowed me to look into the back of his eyes and it was at that time I realized Alessio had an extremely high farsighted prescription. I was so upset, I examined him three times that day. Additionally, I took him to a pediatric ophthalmologist to confirm my findings – which they did. I have seen and confidently diagnosed children with this same issue but I could not believe that my perfect baby had spent the first four months of his life with very poor vision. Sometimes, it is good to just be a mom instead of your child’s doctor and mom. Even though I knew the answer, I needed to hear that I was doing the right thing.
Alessio was fit with special glasses for babies and young children. Miraflex frames are soft glasses that flex and will not break. Bill at MB Optical did an amazing job getting his glasses made quickly and despite the high prescription, the lenses look amazing. I shared a video on our social media page of the first time Alessio wore his glasses. As his mom, I cannot begin to tell you what it felt like for him to see me and my husband clearly for the first time in his life. I was concerned that he would not leave the glasses on, but he loves his new glasses and exploring his new clear world.
Vision is essential in the proper development of a child. Because I was concerned that he may be behind developmentally, I contacted a therapist from the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers to evaluate Alessio’s development. Prior to getting his glasses, he was behind in language (babbling and imitation of facial movements that make sounds) and fine motor skills development. In the 3 weeks since he first got his glasses, he had a huge development boom and caught up with his fine motor skills. It is amazing every day to see him making huge strides in his development as he is discovering the things in the world that he was unable to see before. The therapist felt certain that his language development will come along as well.
Why am I sharing my story? Too often these vision issues are overlooked and not discovered until the child is in school. As a result, they are stuck playing catch up to their peers. At our practice, we educate all parents of new babies to have their child’s vision checked by an eye care professional before the age of one. Typically 6 months is a good rule of thumb. However if you suspect a problem, you can have your child examined earlier than 6 months.
Bissell Eye Care participates in InfantSEE®, a public health program, managed by Optometry Cares®. This program ensures that eye and vision care become an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, participating optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. We check for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, eye movement ability and eye health problems.
What’s in store for Alessio? He will always be in glasses, but through early detection, he now has the chance see clearly and develop normally. Alessio is fortunate because I am an optometrist, a mommy, and I followed both my professional training and instincts that something was not right.
My message to all parents, make an infant eye exam a part of your well baby check up!
About Bissell Eye Care: Bissell Eye Care and Tri-State Low Vision Services have multiple locations and offer comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family, ocular disease detection and treatment, eye glasses, sun glasses, active wear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. Dr. Bissell has undergone specialized training for treatment of low vision by the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists utilizing customized telescopic eyeglasses, prisms and telescopic implants for patients who qualify. The practice accepts most types of vision and health insurance plans and participates in the InfantSEE® program.
About InfantSEE®: Under the Optometry Cares® umbrella, the mission is to expand eye health and vision care access to everyone in the United States in order to enhance human performance and quality of life. The InfantSEE® is a public health program that ensures that eye and vision care become an essential part of infant wellness care.