According to the Optometrists Network, strabismus is the vision condition more commonly known as known as cross-eyed or wall-eyed. Someone with strabismus can’t align both eyes at the same time. One or both eyes might turn out, in, up or down. It can be constant or intermittent, but all suffers have one thing in common: They will never outgrow the condition.
Up to 5% of children suffer from strabismus, which can be corrected with surgery. But according to new research, if that corrective surgery doesn’t take place early enough, a child with the condition may find himself somewhat of a social outcast.
Swiss researchers, who refer to the condition as having a ‘squint,’ found that six-year-olds who suffer from strabismus were less likely to be invited to birthday parties than kids with normally aligned eyes.
They determined this by showing photos of pairs of identical twins to 118 children between the ages of 3 and 12. For each pair of twins, one photo was digitally altered to give that child the appearance of inward and outward types of visible squint (strabismus). The children were then asked to look at photos of each pair of identical twins and choose one that they would like to invite to a birthday party.
The kids under six didn’t discriminate against the photos of kids with squints. But the older kids did and were found to be significantly less likely to invite a kid with misaligned eyes to their birthday parties.
What’s more, when asked if they noticed anything particular about the twins in the photos, only 19% of four to six-year-olds mentioned their eyes. Even after being told to pay special attention to the eyes of the children in the photos, that number rose to just 39%. That means that even when nudged, 61% of the kids six and under remained oblivious to the difference.
But the older the kids were, the more likely they were to notice the squint. And shun the poor child with the problem. The results of this study, say the researchers, provide a good reason for parents of children with strabismus to have corrective surgery before the age of six.
In the real world, most parents would make sure both twins were invited to a birthday party, but you get the point. Kids who look different begin to suffer socially at a fairly young age.
To learn more about the study, visit British Journal of Opthamology.
Image: Upsilon Andromedae/Flickr
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