Eat, Sleep, PATCH, Repeat... Treating Amblyopia
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Whether you're patching your child for the first time or have been struggling to do so effectively, you'll find some handy tips below to help guide you through what can be a challenging journey.
What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is a visual impairment associated with the inability to see through one eye as well as the other
There are various causes as to why this develops, some of which include stronger prescription required in one eye over the other, or most commonly a misalignment of the eyes.
If this happens during the first 8 years of a child’s life, otherwise known as the ‘critical period’, the development of the visual system can be affected. This is primarily due to the brain using the better seeing eye and ignoring information coming from the affected eye. Fortunately, early intervention is key and can help to reduce long-term vision problems. This is why a child may be patched.
What is Patching?
Patching is when a child wears an eye patch over their ‘good eye’ in hope of strengthening their ‘weaker eye’, as it is forced to work. This is considered an effective form of treatment for amblyopia, however, children are not always receptive to wearing it, especially for long periods!
Your practitioner should normally advise how long the patch needs to be worn – it is usually a few hours a day over a number of months.
Now as a parent, if you are embarking on what can be a tiring and sometimes frustrating journey of patching your child, I wish you the best of luck and the advice that ‘persistence is key’. No doubt, you will find that patch being thrown to the floor, hidden between sofa cushions or tucked away in a corner - but it is important to make sure you stick another one back on and show them who’s boss! Your child may not thank you now, but I promise it will be all worth it in the end!
In the hope of helping you through this process, I have put together some top tips and ideas to assist you along the way. Hopefully you’ll find something that works best for you!
To really understand what it feels like, cover one eye with the palm of your hand. How does it feel? Restricting your field of view can be frustrating and is even more so in a child who may not always understand the reasons behind it.
1) Explaining the benefits of wearing the patch
As obvious as this may seem, depending on the age of the child, some verbal reinforcement as to the reasons why they have to wear the patch is found to be very powerful.
The idea of making the eye ‘really strong’ is usually something children will embrace. It can be described as gaining a superpower, which can always be a fun approach.
Don’t forget to get everyone involved; family, friends, school teachers etc. all of this added support will help contribute towards the success of this treatment!
Reassure your child at every occasion!
Distractions are super useful when managing the ‘adaptation period’; defined as the initial 15-30 mins of putting the patch on whilst they adjust.
I would recommend doing something your child likes to do and encourage interaction and engagement with them to take their mind off the patch itself. This could be in the form of a watching their favourite movie, reading a book or playing in the garden. Reading, even if it is just following pictures or doing worksheets helps to ‘work’ the eye and is always a great distraction.
If you are looking for something new, our FREE printable activity worksheets (found on the activities page) are a great way to spend some quality time with your child, free from electronics.
3) Progress sheet / calendar
Every single day is an accomplishment! Don’t forget to let your child know this.
A form of calendar is a great way to track progress and celebrate each day the patch has been worn, further reinforcing how well they have done.
If they are required to wear it for many hours in the day, try using a clock or a timer – it always helps when you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Not that I want to encourage forms of bribery, however implementing a reward system could encourage your child to engage and participate over several months.
This can be in conjunction with tracking their progress, for example, an additional treat at the end of the week if the patch is worn for the whole week (depending on how generous you want to be!). This will help with compliance and give the child something additional to look forward to!
5) Variety of different patches
Shape? Size? Colour? There are various patches that your child could wear and some may appeal more than others!
The aim is to keep it on for as long as possible, so colour coordinating with cartoon characters or football teams may be a fan favourite!
You can even try and decorate them yourself for added fun!
6) Story books/ Toys / Clothes
Promoting positive messages about patching can make them feel like they are not alone.
There are relatable books, Youtube videos and toys that will have their characters patched, reinforcing that they aren’t the only ones going through this.
You could even try applying a patch to their existing toys to make them feel at ease.
7) Help reduce irritation
The area where the patch comes into contract with the skin may cause irritation when removed and it may help to lubricate and calm the area after. Children are very good at remembering negative experiences!
To help reduce the adhesiveness, you you could try trimming the adhesive part of the patch, whilst ensuring the cover is still adequate.
You could even consider using a hypoallergenic patch.
Soon, with all of your hard work, the vision in the ‘weaker eye’ will begin to improve! Stay positive, build a routine that works for your child, and REMEMBER, you are not alone!
Disclaimer: The Site can not and does not contain medical advice. The information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.