Being Different Can Be Hard





Jacob 2Jacob’s Eye Patch appears to be an engaging book, well-illustrated, and targeted toward children and their parents in helping understand differences.  The tag line for the book [which I discovered today thanks to Simon & Schuster’s half page ad in the Children’s Books insert of the Sunday New York Times Book Review] is: Being different can be hard.  But everyone has something different.  What’s your something?  This theme is front and center on the website superbly designed to promote the book.


Jacob’s difference of course is that he wears an eye patch, one that we’re told he’s worn since five days old, and will have to wear until age 10.  As Jacob’s mom Beth relates:

“Don’t stare. Don’t point. And definitely don’t say anything.”

These are the rules we tell our kids to follow when they meet someone who is different—whether that person is in a wheelchair, extremely tall, or has brilliant orange hair.

For some reason, Jacob’s eye patch prompts the opposite behavior. I like to think that it’s because of Jacob’s open, welcoming nature—one he was blessed with from birth—which acts as a kind of “green light” for questions about his patch. His ability to answer questions is empowering for Jacob.

Jacob wears a patch because he was born with two common eye conditions: amblyopia, which is when one eye (in his case, the right) is stronger than the other, and strabismus, more commonly known as being cross-eyed. When he was just five days old, the ophthalmologist told us to put an adhesive patch on Jacob’s right eye for eight hours a day, forcing Jacob to rely on his weaker left eye. As he grew older, he had to wear the patch from three to as many as ten hours a day. Today, his eyes are beautifully aligned, with 20/20 vision in each.

Of course there are those times when Jacob, like any child, doesn’t want to be bothered with questions. It can be irritating to offer up the same explanation day after day. But if someone really needs to know—more than Jacob needs not to talk about it—Jacob is always willing to tell his story one more time.

Jacob 4If you take a look at the Resources page you’ll note that it is devoid of any optometric information.  That’s not entirely surprising, given that Jacob and Beth’s experiences were only under the guidance of their ophthalmologist.  As our colleague Dr. Dan Fortenbacher has noted, eye patching alone is no longer the standard of care for amblyopia.  Jacob and Beth are right:  “Being different can be hard.  But everyone has something different.”  Dr. Fortenbacher and I will tell you that what makes our patients different is that it takes alot of courage on their part to find us, and not be dissuaded by ped-OMDs and patching dogma.

Jillian’s Story has neither the cachet of Simon & Schuster nor the muscle of the patching industry, but it is a marvelous opportunity to spread the word about optometric treatment of amblyopia and strabismus.  I want to emphasize that I’m pleased for Jacob and Beth that things have turned out well for them, but Robin and Jillian tell quite a different story about the ophthalmologic guidance they received regarding therapy.  We all know that being different can be hard which is why now, more than ever, vision therapy advocates like Robin and Jillian Benoit deserve your full support.  Order them in bulk supply here.  I’ve ordered a hundred copies for our practice and will be sending them as Thanksgiving gifts to our referral sources, and putting them in the hands of parents who have been told that patching is the only treatment necessary for amblyopia, and surgery the only treatment for strabismus.

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