A strange title for a blog post you might say, unless of course you are part of, or have knowledge of, the blind community.
Eye poking is an unfortunate habit that some blind children have which, if not corrected, can also continue into adulthood. Many people say that it provides stimulation to the eyes where there is none in blind children. It causes much distress to parents and family members and even sets the blind community apart, those who do not do it often site themselves as being better functioning or socially more acceptable than those who do.
I was born with Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and I used to be an eye poker. I’m not proud of it but I am also not as ashamed of it as I used to be.
I spent my childhood being constantly pulled up about it. I was at time shouted at because of it and was offered bribes if I stopped doing it or privileges were withdrawn because I did it.
I am an intelligent person and know that eye poking is unsightly, it is not good for the eyes and it is behaviour which draws attention to blind people for all the wrong reasons. However, even as an adult, I found myself doing it, often when I was concentrating particularly hard or if I was tired. I also regularly experienced extreme discomfort in my eyes which was only relieved when the eye was pressed on. This was something I just accepted to be the norm.
I have no evidence to prove this but it seems that eye poking is particularly prevalent amongst those of us with Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and I wonder, therefore, if the discomfort I experienced was due to the condition itself.
Due to further complications I have now had both my eyes removed. This was done over a period of just over a year and I noticed, when the first one was removed that I no longer attempted to poke that eye. Since the second was removed, I can categorically say that I never poke my eyes, even inadvertently when I’m concentrating.
The point I am making here is that, for years I was ashamed of the habit and ashamed of myself when I found that I was doing it. I was made to feel that it was a failing and that I was a lesser person because I did it.
Yes, it is something that you can learn not to do and all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, but I firmly believe that the discomfort I experienced was a major factor as to why I could never wholly break the habit.
So, I would say to you if you have a child or family member who pokes their eyes, talk to them about why it is not a good habit to have. Guide them, don’t punish them. Warm or cold pads on tired eyes can be a suitable alternative if at home.
The chances are, they are not poking their eyes to be difficult or because they don’t care how they look. Please, be kind and don’t let them experience the shame I did.