Article Date: 3/1/2005

lessons learned
When Lincoln Was Your Age . . .
When communicating with juvenile patients, expect the unexpected.

"When Abraham Lincoln was your age, he walked 10 miles to school," said the father to his son who was complaining about walking to school.

"Yeah, and when Abraham Lincoln was your age," replied the son, "he was president of the United States!"

Communicating with kids is "a whole 'nother" ball game. They may see things from an entirely different perspective, and thus don't always give you the expected response. It helps to understand this when communicating with children in your practice.



Dr. Dale Morris tells me of an experience he had with a nine-year- old boy:

At the end of the exam I started to put drops in his eyes. "I'm going to dilate your eyes to look in the back of them," I told him.

He immediately grabbed the back of his head with his hands and began to feel around. "I have a back eye?!" he asked excitedly. His mother and I both fell out laughing.

Other classic stories show how small children in particular can misunderstand things:

► A four-year-old reciting the Lord's Prayer said, "Our Father who does art in heaven, Harold is his name."

► After being admonished by his mother for a poor report card, the small fry countered, "I saw your driver's license, and it says you got an F in Sex."

Like it is

Kids also are often unpretentious and tell it "like it is," rather than worrying about being polite. Dr. Irving Bennett tells me of one such example:

Once when examining a young boy, I asked him several times to choose the better between number one and number two. The results were not too definitive, and the child was getting tired of the whole thing. When I said, "Brian, just one more time," he promptly piped up in a disgusted tone of voice:

"Yeah, I betcha!!"

Other examples include:

► "Your cat is in heaven with Jesus," consoled the mother to her small daughter, who was mourning the loss of her pet cat.

"What in the world would Jesus want with a dead cat?!" the little girl asked.

► "My father can whip your father," said the youngster on the playground to another boy who was bothering him.

"Big deal!" was the reply. "So can my mother."

Sounds logical

Another difference is that children often use simpler logic than do adults. From England, Dr. Michael Blackstone e-mailed me the following episode from his office:

"What is your favourite subject at school?" I asked a small boy.

"Lunch!" was his emphatic reply.

A second example was related to me by a Sunday school teacher:

I was trying to get across to my class of 12-year-old boys how worried Jesus's parents must have been when he was 12 years old and had been missing while at the Temple. And how relieved they must have been to finally find him. "What do you think his parents probably said when they found him?" I asked them.

"Where in the hell have you been?!" was the response from one of the lads.

Communicating with kids can be frustrating. But it adds a lot of fun to your practice.


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005