GAELIC Football isn’t just a hobby for 10-year-old Cliodhna Hart, it runs in the family. She began her time on the field playing camogie at just four years old, but when she learned she needed glasses during a routine eye test, it was time for a well fitted pair of glasses to wear under her helmet.
Mum, Roisin an optical assistant and administrator at Specsavers Newry, saw that Cliodhna’s love of playing was diminished when she wore her glasses, which really impacted her confidence and skill for the game.
At 7 years old and with her passion and skill for football shining through, Roisin brought Cliodhna in for a consultation with the team at Specsavers who recommended she try contact lenses, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Earlier this year, William Stevenson, an Ophthalmic Director at Specsavers Newry, fitted Cliodhna with a new contact lens prescription and mum Roisin says her confidence on and off the pitch, passion for the sport and independence has grown immeasurably.
Roisin says; “When some children have to start wearing glasses it can give their confidence a knock, it sets them apart from other children even though it shouldn’t, so it was a lot for a young girl at four years old to deal with anyway.
“Cliodhna absolutely loves her sport, and it runs in our family. I’m a former St. John’s Bosco player, where Cliodhna plays for the Under 12s, and I coach as well. I understand her passion for it, so when it was curtailed due to having to wear glasses, I could feel that heartbreak for her – she wasn’t doing her best and that’s all she ever wants to do when she plays with her team mates.
I don’t think parents ever consider contact lenses for their children because there is a perception that they’re high maintenance, and too much for a child to manage. I would really urge parents to consider them for their children, especially if they are part of a sports team, as the discipline of wearing and looking after contact lenses goes hand in hand with the skills they gain through playing team sport.
“Cliodhna has the responsibility of looking after her lenses as she knows they are to protect her eyes, and she needs them to play the sport that she loves – they give her a freedom and independence. Her confidence has grown alongside her ability, and this experience for her also arms her with life skills and the opportunity to find a solution to a problem that might be getting in the way of a passion.”
William added; “It is so important for children to have regular eye tests throughout childhood, not only do we want to keep their eyes healthy but also find a solution that works for their lifestyle, which should be full of fun and freedom.
“There is no official age to start wearing contact lenses, it all depends on a child’s ability to use and look after their lenses, which we assess during an initial appointment. We can then decide whether they’d be a good fit and can recommend the best lens type for them. As long as the child has an up-to-date prescription, we can provide a free contact lens trial to see how they get on with using them and the care required.
“After that, if all goes well, they can come back in-store to confirm they’d like to go ahead and we’ll sort out the rest. Contact lenses are ideal for children who play sports, it means their full field of vision is in focus and provides them with the freedom to get stuck in, especially when it comes to contact sports.
“I would encourage parents whose children wear glasses and play sport to ask their optometrist if they might be suitable for contact lenses as the benefits are clear to be seen.”
For more information on contact lenses for children please visit specsaver.co.uk or visit Specsavers Newry, Buttercrane Shopping Centre, or book an appointment via specsavers.co.uk/stores/newry.