Top tips for visiting an eye clinic with your child

Visiting the eye clinic, whether for a routine check-up or something more, can be daunting for a child (especially if they’re not sure what to expect).
But, with a little planning and preparation, you can make the experience a whole lot easier, even fun! The Children and Young People's team at Henshaws work closely with the Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLO) at both Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (MREH) and Alder Hey, who work to support families while visiting eye clinics.
We have worked with the ECLO at MREH to put together the following tips to help make your visit go smoothly.

Preparing for the eye clinic appointment

It’s a good idea to try and find out as much as possible about what to expect at your appointment before the day arrives, both for yourself and your child. Hospital websites will often provide information for you to read in advance, such as this on the MREH website https://mft.nhs.uk/royal-eye/services/paediatric/

Depending on your child’s age and understanding, it’s a good idea to talk to them about the eye clinic a few days before. This will help familiarise them with what might happen and give them chance to ask any questions and discuss any worries. To help, MREH have produced some really useful eBooks for children taking them through step by step what will happen, with photos and updated to reflect new guidelines. You can find them here:

https://mft.nhs.uk/royal-eye/patients-visitors/patient-leaflets/

Again, depending on how old your child is, you could even role play ‘eye clinics’ at home using teddies, dolls or action figures! You could make pretend ‘eye tests’ and take turns having a go! For some appointments, your child may need to have eye drops to dilate their eyes. This helps to get a better view inside the eye. Very few children like this part! While they don’t hurt, they can sting and make the vision blurry. Again, you could pretend to give eye drops to stuffed animals or dolls and have your child practice putting their head back and blinking as though they have had a drop too. You know your child best and what may work for them.

If your child has any additional needs, it’s a good idea to let the eye clinic know in advance so they can make the appointment a positive experience and meet their needs. In some circumstances, eye clinics may be able to arrange a pre-visit for your child to look around if they are particularly anxious. Some hospitals even have Play Specialists who can help your child to understand and explore their worries.

If you have any questions yourself about anything, it’s a good idea to write them down beforehand and take them with you on the day, with a notepad and pen to make any notes during your appointment.

Image of Manchester Royal Eye Hospital

On the day

Come prepared! Eye clinics can be busy places and it can be a long appointment. It’s a good idea to take along some familiar books or a couple of favourite toys for your child to play with to keep them entertained. There is usually free Wi-Fi available so iPads or phones can also be used, though maybe take some headphones to avoid disturbing others!

You might also want to take some snacks to avoid hunger meltdowns. There are usually also cafes and shops on site or nearby. Pagers are often available (they are at MREH) to alert you as to when you will be seen and means you can go for a walk around the hospital or sit outside on a nice day.

Make sure you also bring any glasses that your child currently wears, as well as a list of any medications they are on.

Your appointment

You tend to meet a lot of different members of the eye clinic team when you attend an appointment, including receptionists, orthoptists, optometrists, nurses, assistants and an ophthalmologist! It can be difficult to keep up with everyone’s role, but you can always ask or read more about what each individual contributes to a child or young person’s care on the Manchester Foundation Trust website:

https://mft.nhs.uk/royal-eye/services/paediatric/

Your child may need to complete a number of different tests which all check the different ways in which the eye works. As mentioned, your child may also need drops which will be given and then you will need to wait a little while for them to work before tests can be done. For more information about the different tests that might be done read here:

https://mft.nhs.uk/royal-eye/services/paediatric/

Please note that your child may not need these tests. If in any doubt about what your appointment will entail, speak to the eye clinic beforehand (you will usually have contact details on your appointment letter).

Children having fun
Gail Brett , Henshaws Community Enablement Officer (pink top) with guide dog Wanda. Pictured with Lynsey Clarke, Altrincham Hospital sister.

It can be really difficult and sometimes overwhelming to ask questions, but questions are welcomed by all members of staff. Make sure you ask any questions you have, including any you had prepared and make any notes you think you might need to remember after the appointment.

A lot of clinics do have a children’s ECLO who is there to provide information, advice and support. Both MREH and Alder Hey have an ECLO, so do ask to be put in touch with them if you think it will be helpful.

ECLO’s can be a great support and can help put you in touch with other services, like Henshaws, if needed. Henshaws also have a Patient Support Officer based at MREH who can help if the ECLO isn’t available.

After your appointment

It’s good to talk openly with your child about the appointment afterwards, to discuss the things that were good and maybe anything that they found difficult. Depending on age and understanding, it is important to answer any questions they have about their sight as honestly as you can. If there is a diagnosis of a vision impairment, it can be very difficult to know how to talk about this with your child. RNIB have produced a really useful guide to help you discuss it and there are a few good children’s books too.

https://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/APDF-ENG170108_Tough%20talks.pdf

https://nystagmusnetwork.org/can-i-tell-you-about-nystagmus/

Transition and further support

The transition to adult eye care services can start from the age of 11, but it is different for each individual, and it’s important for young people with long-term eye conditions to discuss their transition from child to adult services. Please ask your eye clinic about this if you have any questions.

If you have any further questions about your eye clinic appointment or need support with your child’s diagnosis, please contact Henshaws to talk to our experts on 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk

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Sarah
Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.