As any parent of a child with amblyopia knows, getting young, active children to wear an eye patch can be an exercise in frustration. Parents will usually try asking, pleading with, and bribing their kids to get them to wear the patch. In extreme cases, there are other amblyopia treatments that a doctor can recommend, but the tried-and-true eye patch remains the most common treatment.
Part of the reason kids don’t want to wear the patch is that they have to see out of the “lazy” eye that doesn’t see well, which can be frustrating. Also, kids feel very self-conscious with the patch on. Often, they are the only one they know with an eye patch. And, let’s face it, an eye patch really just isn’t that much fun. And no amount of logic and reason is likely to make it fun.
But I just found out about something that can make wearing an eye patch fun! It is an award-winning DVD called the “The Eye Patch Kids.” It stars a puppet named Princess and her friends, as she goes to the eye doctor and learns that she has amblyopia and needs to wear and eye patch. There is lots of silliness and singing and dancing – all the things that little kids love. And not only that, but it communicates some very important messages for children with amblyopia to hear.
I was so impressed by the video that I interviewed its creator, Kelly Harmsen, about the DVD and her experience with amblyopia:
Dr. B: Can you tell me about your family’s experience with amblyopia?
Kelly:Well, I will admit that before he was diagnosed I had no clue what it was. Now it’s a totally different thing to me because I know that they need to get help. That’s why I always tell parents that just because you don’t think your child has a vision problem doesn’t mean they don’t. If a child is born with loss of vision in one eye they don’t know better to tell you because they have been seeing like that since they were born. So they don’t know there is a problem either. That’s why it is VERY IMPORTANT for every child to get a vision screening.
Dr. B: How did the idea of producing the DVD come about?
Kelly:When Joshua was first diagnosed with Amblyopia and we got a prescription for glasses and bought the eye patch we were clueless on how to get him to wear it. When I asked the d she just said “I don’t know, but just get him to wear it.” After many days of struggling with him to wear the eye patch and him leaving it on for only 30 seconds I was very frustrated. Then one day a man came on a cartoon wearing an eye patch and my son who originally wanted nothing to do with the patch took it out of the drawer and handed it to me to put it on him. I didn’t realize at first why he wanted it on, but was very happy and put it on him immediately. Then he went back into the other room and started trying to dance and copy the man on tv with the patch on. I was jaw dropped when I saw this. Then I thought to myself, I wonder if I can take our camcorder and make a quick little movie on it to play on our TV with puppets with eye patches on for him to copy. Well it worked great and I didn’t have any problems anymore with him. Then after researching the internet I realized that there were so many other kids out there going through the same thing as my son, and that’s when I decided to make this available to all kids. So I sat down at my computer and typed up a rough draft of the script and my sister put in her two cents and then I made all the puppets, backgrounds, etc. and we hired a production company to film it.
Dr. B: Where did the name Bjort come from?
Kelly: Well actually my sister Tracy came up with it. I had made the Bjort puppets and didn’t know what to all them and when my sister saw them she just said “Bjort” and we both started laughing. Then I thought well if we laugh then I’m sure he kids will laugh. So we brought Joshua into the room and I put the puppet back on and kept saying “Bjort” and he would laugh every time so that’s when we thought we had a winner with the name.
Dr. B: What are some of the most distant/interesting places you have gotten feedback from patients/parents?
Kelly:I have been selling them all over the world. As far as Australia, Isreal, Africa, Japan, UK, etc. Unfortunately it is only filmed in English, but even in the countries where they don’t speak English they say that their child still gets the message from just watching it. I have had lots of positive feedback from parents and that makes me feel great to know that I am helping kids out just like my son. There is nothing else like it in the world.
Dr. B: What is your favorite part of the video?
Kelly:I would probably have to say “The Bjort Bop” song with me being the Bjort singing and my sister being the other Bjort in the background just acting crazy. lol. That was totally unrehearsed. I still laugh everytime I see that part knowing how it was made. My sister couldn’t move her wrist for almost a week after that.
If you are interested in purchasing the “The Eyepatch Kids” DVD or related merchandise, you can find out all about it at www.bjortandcompany.com
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.