For the Children with Specs

“Can you read the top letter?” I ask the six-year-old with the massive specs.

“That’s a number eight!” she exclaims, visibly proud. Or maybe relieved.

After a few more lines, she falters.

“six… no, five- threeeee… uhm…”

“Read it.” Says the voice in the corner. Her mother. “You can read. Don’t let the white doctor think you’re stupid!”

I enjoyed learning to test visual acuities. And I enjoy working with children. But testing children’s vision was one of the most challenging things of my Ophthamology rotation, because inevitably (and understandably) parents want to sit in on the test, but every once in a while, the parents turn it into a negative experience for their child.

“Lady, your child is not stupid. I know she can read, because she just read five lines. Your child isn’t shy either. Your child just can’t see. So what if she fails this test – it won’t destroy her future, it just allows us to help her better. And please don’t whisper the answers to her, because you’re not doing her a favour. I’ll just ignore the racial remark in there. I can’t stop you from making your child feel stupid at home, but you’re not doing it on my watch.”

Well, that was what I wanted to say.

I am just a medical student. I’m not a parent. Later, I figured I should have said something – not my imaginary soliloquy, but at least something to diffuse the situation and make it easier for the little girl with specs.

Linking up with Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge.


  1. As a child with specs I was mortally embarrassed when the Dr asked me to read the letters. I turned to him with the very usual, very blank look I once gave my teachers and told him there were no letters, only a white light on the wall.

  2. Great observation — thanks for sharing this. I find it frustrating when parents act like this, so I can only imagine what it must be like to actually be in your position dealing with the children and their parents. It actually surprises me that the parents would want to cheat like that (whispering the answers to the kids). I mean, don’t they realize that’s not HELPING their child, and that they’re actually sabotaging their own kid? =/

    1. I don’t know if they don’t realise it – I suppose one needs to sit them down and explain. I grew up with numerous visits to ophthalmologists and optometrists, as did my parents, so perhaps I just assumed that all parents understand the process. Maybe not… next time I’ll explain to them.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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