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Dispensing to kids requires keeping both your customer and their guardian happy

Dispensing to kids at their level - Part 1

By Chedy Kalach
Paediatric dispensing has its challenges, but can be a remarkably rewarding experience. In the first of a two-part series CHEDY KALACH explains how both guardians and children can be kept happy.

Up until the 80s children’s spectacles were rarely thought of. Patients were basically treated like miniature adults, and glasses were largely considered purely as medical appliances. Traditionally, there was only a small selection of frames available. My own first pair, which I received in the 80s, was more or less a smaller version of the traditional men’s double bridge frame.

Nowadays there is an entire market aimed at kid’s eyewear, complete with companies fully focused on children’s eyewear needs and a bevy of designer frames available.

Movie characters are also increasingly wearing glasses, reducing the embarrassment that might come with using a pair. Spectacles for children are becoming big business.

Early eye checks

There is no doubt the prevalence of myopia is increasing globally, prompting the need for early detection and vision screening. Young children are unaware of what is normal vision, and are generally able to adapt well if they have poor vision.

They adopt various postures, such as head tilts, and tend to utilise their other senses fairly well. Because of this, it is important to send the message to all your customers that it is never too early for their children’s eyes to be tested.

"You don’t want to be the intimating, tall stranger looking down at them telling them they now need to wear glasses"

Young children see the dentist with their baby teeth, and are taught to brush them as soon as they have them. We should do the same with eyes, since early damage done to them can be long lasting. And unlike teeth, which fall out in order to make room for an adult set, our eyes cannot be replaced.

Once children have their eyes checked and require a correction, the dispenser needs to ensure they wear their optical appliances as required.

This can be a deceptively difficult task. As an example, I had my first pair of glasses for a whole year before I wore them.

The best way to ensure kids wear their glasses is to involve them in the dispensing process. They are more likely to wear something they have chosen and like, particularly if it is their favourite colour or has a popular character on the side.

Keeping everyone happy

This is when the dispense can be a bit more time consuming, as you have to contend with a duality; you need to ensure the child and their guardian are both happy with the product. After all, the guardian is the paying customer, but the child is the one who actually needs the glasses.

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I find it best to have a chat with the guardian in private to find out exactly what they are looking for, if there are any budgetary constraints and if they will allow me to address the child directly.

After doing this, you will know which frames you can recommend and which ones you should avoid. Occasionally a child really likes a frame that is out of the guardian’s budget, so you would need to find a suitable substitute.

Another common trap to avoid is supplying a frame that a child can grow into. This is simply a false economy; often the glasses will need to be replaced sooner than the child can grow into it due to factors like damage or the prescription needing to be changed.

I have found dispensing to children to be the most fun I can have during the day, since I need to communicate with them on their own terms.

Personally, I like to physically go down to their level; you don’t want to be the intimating, tall stranger looking down at them telling them they now need to wear glasses. If you do that, you will be guaranteed to have a poor rapport with them.

You can be more playful and less constrained, talking about cartoons, school, sports and computer games. Whilst on the topic of communication, you do need to be mindful of your body language.

Kids tend to make decisions about you fairly quickly, so keep smiling, be energetic and give out friendly vibes.

Obviously, this process varies from patient to patient, depending on their age and maturity. Having that private conversation with the guardian generally, helps to establish how much they like their child to be involved in the process.

In part two, we will look at what makes a good frame for kids, taking accurate measurements, and making sure the final fit is perfect.


More reading:

Dispensing to kids at their level - Part 2


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