Double vision as a sign of success?

Yes, we buy every cute glasses-themed T-shirt we see. Busted farmer's hat? Not a typical accessory.

Last night, my daughter experienced double vision. But panic soon gave way to reassurance. It was not a bad thing. Surprisingly, I haven’t lost my mind. (Though if I did, would I know it? Anywho.) Please allow me to explain.

Stella, whose vision I’ve covered here at Little Four Eyes before, just turned three. When she was 18 months old, her accommodative esotropia and anisometropia were discovered and addressed with glasses. Her stylish specs keep her eyes straight–HOORAY! We still patch a little bit, because her left eye is more farsighted than the right and so has slightly lower acuity (really, less than one line difference at last check). We’re finishing up vision therapy. Stella can catch a ball, now without using her chest to corral it. She can snag falling feathers with the grace of a major league outfielder, and hit a birdie with a racket, not so much with grace (yet) but with real and consistent contact. Her peripheral vision was opened up by the vision therapy, and her toe-walking reduced. She’s doing very well, and even asks to do our daily at-home vision therapy activities. Amazing progress all around.

Last night, when I heard her crying out from bed, I blamed the cold she’s been battling. I went in to comfort her and help blow her nose. As I leaned over her, I saw a dazed smile on her face. That’s when she said, “I see two mommies.” I looked more closely, and sure enough, her left eye was turned in. I so rarely see her eyes cross–because she almost always wears her glasses. The sight is still a punch in the gut, but I quickly put the pieces together and saw a big positive.

First off, she has a cold–the stress of illness is what brought out her strabismus out in the first place.

Secondly, she wasn’t wearing her glasses. Spec-free, all bets are off, particularly when she’s studying something up close. At least until age 11 to 13 or so, she’ll need glasses to keep her eyes aligned. The vision therapy helped re-wire her brain to always use her eyes, aligned by glasses, together. If her glasses were on and I saw crossing, only then would I have real reason for concern.

Lastly, and this felt like a big and helpful realization to me: She wasn’t suppressing the weaker eye. She saw double because she was trying to use both eyes as usual. If her weaker eye was being tuned out, she wouldn’t experience double vision. Typically, again thanks to her glasses, her eyes are aligned and work together, enabling great stereoscopy as recently measured by both her new ophthalmologist (who is wonderful) and her developmental optometrist (also super fantastic). It’s no wonder Stella found the double vision amusing and unusual. She’s used to two eyes in concert, not in conflict.

Upon further obsession (err, reflection), I was pleased with how she quickly articulated what was going on. Back when she got her glasses, half a lifetime ago for this three-year-old, she had a relatively good vocab for her age but obviously couldn’t describe her vision to me. She also refused to even look at the feather I held in my hand above her head, nevermind catch one. She’s come a long way!

All that said, last night was a good reminder about how crucial it is for Stella to wear her glasses at all times (sleep, bath, and swimming excluded). I’ll confess that sometimes, upon waking, she comes to our still-darkened room and hangs out in our bed for a bit, usually without her glasses. About time we made “glasses on!” the very first step in our day.

Now, if only she could effectively clean her glasses on her own. This cold is resulting in permanently smeared lenses! (Ew.)


9 responses to “Double vision as a sign of success?

  1. I’d never thought about seeing double as a sign that she’s not suppressing vision from one eye, but that makes perfect sense, and that’s awesome! I remember my dad worrying about a year ago when he saw Zoe’s eyes cross without her glasses on. For me, it just reinforced that, yes, she really does need those glasses.

    I hope she’s feeling better soon, and good luck and getting her to clean her glasses. Zoe has happily tried to clean her glasses for a long time now, though still doesn’t quite get that you can’t effectively clean them if you’re holding the lenses between your thumb and finger, no matter how much you use that microfiber cloth.


    • Thanks, Ann! She’s muddling through the cold. No real skills have developed yet when it comes to cleaning glasses. It’s encouraging to hear that Zoe is so proactive about trying!


  2. I recently had the same thing happen for my 3YO who has strabismus. We were dressing him for his PO app’t and his glasses were off. He commented with a large grin that he saw “two mommies.” I was horrified. Oh dear, now he is seeing double on top of suppressing vision! But our PO said this was great news. It is wonderful to see progress. My son is now down to two hours of patching from six and his vision just keeps on improving. Glad to hear you are experiencing progress too! This is my first time commenting but this site has been a great help to me and my son as we have made the move to glasses in the last five months. Thank you for this service to families.


    • It sure is incredible to see real evidence of progress. So happy for you and your son! Isn’t it interesting how they seem to simply be amused by it? I’d be scared if I started seeing double.


  3. Thanks for your post, and really this whole blog, it has been very reassuring. We’re just starting our journey with our almost 2.5 year old son and his accommodative esotropia. A month in and we’ve had the glasses back at the lab for a whole week since he popped out a lens at daycare (they couldn’t find it), and then dealing with the general flinging-the-glasses-off randomly (we now use a ribbon and diaper pin to attach it to his shirt collar at all times) and constant cleaning to avoid him wearing them around his neck. I’m hoping that we can get enough wear for him to get back to using that eye 100%, but I have to say we’re struggling right now.


  4. Hi, I’ve been reading your posts about Stella for quite some time, and I appreciate the information and encouragement they provide. I wish you all continued success! Our Amelia has accommodative estropia. She is far-sighted, wears glasses and we are doing vision therapy. I was curious as to whether Stella is far-sighted or near-sighted.. I see that she wears her glasses at all times..? I was under the impression that Amelia would only need her glasses for near work, but it appears that the weaker eye will sometimes not stay straight unless she wears them, even if looking at something that I would consider distance. Thanks!


  5. Pingback: Books about patching: Reviews of “The Pirate of Kindergarten” and “PatchLand Adventures: Fishing with Grandpa” « little four eyes·

  6. I’m new to this site. I have the same experience with my son…accomodative estropia farsighted. Been doing Vision therapy for 1.5 years with glasses full-time and no surgery. It’s so good to hear other parents doing VT for their children. He’s made huge progress. His eyes are straight most of the time until he’s very tired or sick. He hated sports especially flying balls…but he’s now hitting slow pitched baseballs and does great catching line drives. It’s still difficult for him to catch fly balls since there’s no spatial reference for his eyes but he still tries.


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