What happened to your eye?| Patching for Amblyopia

Our five year old daughter has been wearing an eyepatch for nearly a year now. As a 26 week micropreemie, Addie was diagnosed with Retinopathy of Prematurity when she was just a few months old. She had laser treatment on both eyes as an infant to prevent the retinas from detaching permanently, which has the side effect of losing some (most?) of her peripheral vision.
At the age of 13 months, Addie was fitted with her first pair of glasses. (Isn’t she adorable?!) After first speculating that she had torticollis, it was discovered that she has one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye.
We have regular check-ups with the pediatric ophthalmologist to make sure that there is no progression with the ROP. This time last year, it was discovered that she also has amblyopia, a brain condition that allows one eye to work harder than the other. As a result, she wears the eyepatch over the strong eye for three hours every morning–the goal is that the weaker eye will “catch up” sooner or later.
Recently, one of my friends recommended the children’s book The Patch by Justina Chen Headley. It was a great conversation starter for the two of us–obviously Addie knows WHY she wears a patch, but she doesn’t like having to explain it to every person who asks. (Until we read the book, I never really knew how much it bothered her having to wear it in public.)

Last week at the library, Addie picked up My Travelin’ Eye, which is an ADORABLE book about a little girl with amblyopia and strabismus. The book is written about the author’s own experiences as a child, which added an extra layer of authenticity (for me as a parent). Jenny Sue was able to articulate for ALL children that what makes her different isn’t something that necessarily needs to be “fixed”.

We’re hopeful that at our next appointment, we’ll hear that the patching has worked! But even so, there will always be one thing or another that sets our beautiful miracle apart from her peers (scars from surgery, missing finger on her right hand, etc.). One of the reasons we choose to sign with our children is that we want to increase their sensitivity towards all people, to learn that differences are strengths, and to celebrate the beauty of diversity that is all around us!