Coloring book puts kids at ease by explaining eye appointments

MIDDLEBURY — It was almost 20 years ago that Molly Hawley assisted a Cleveland, Ohio, ophthalmology office in creating a coloring book to help relieve pre-appointment jitters for child patients. Youngsters could color in the pictures of the mysterious high-tech eye equipment and at the same time learn that their impending exam would be largely pain-free.
“I was kind of proud of it,” Hawley, a well-respected portrait and landscape artist who moved her easel to Ripton in 2005, said of the coloring book. One of Hawley’s friends wrote the text that appears below the drawings.
“But time passed, the book went into a drawer, and I moved to Vermont.”
She found cause to dust the book off during a recent visit as a patient to Dr. Solomon Gould’s office at Eye Care Associates in Middlebury. Indeed, the book caught Gould’s eye, to the point where he is collaborating with Hawley to make the book available not only to his young patients and their families, but to ophthalmologists’ offices throughout the country.
“There are a lot of gaps in pediatric health care,” Gould said. “Throughout my education, doing all my clinical rotations and residency, I noticed a very common theme — and that was a deer-in-the-headlights look from parents whenever they would bring their children in for eye exams. The children themselves were absolutely frightened.”
That inspired Gould to want to do something more to help parents prepare their children for eye exams. Hawley’s book seemed like just the ticket.
“My first reaction was that it was very well written, very didactically broken down, and set up step-by-step what does happen when you go to the eye doctor,” Gould recalled. “In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘We could really make something of this.’”
The pair sat down last year to more fully scrutinize the book and how it could be updated for more expansive distribution. Fortunately, most of the text and drawings were good to go, though there were some needed changes to reflect new eye examination equipment that has come on the scene since the mid-’80s. And Hawley and Gould agreed there should be four distinct versions of the book to reflect male and female patients as well as male and female eye doctors.
All four versions have the same title: “No Pills, No Shots — Your Visit to the Eye Doctor.”
Page by page, the text takes the young patient through what he or she should expect during their upcoming eye exam, from check-in at the reception area to discharge. They are told they will be asked to cover an eye and read a chart, place their chin on a rest to have their eyes examined with a special microscope called a “slit lamp,” receive eye drops in preparation for being checked out with an auto-refractor, and have a bright light shown in their eyes as part of an inspection with an indirect ophthalmoscope.
Gould gave the book to 20 area children (ages 3 to 10) and their families, then surveyed them on their reactions. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive — so much so that Gould decided to print up an initial run of copies to be made available at between $1.90 and $6, depending on the size of the eye doctor’s order. He will be marketing the books at the American Academy of Optometry convention in Seattle, Oct. 23-26 — the largest eye convention in the world. The books can be purchased online at www.nopillsnoshots.com.
“We’re hoping to sell it privately and directly, online,” said Gould, who anticipates the books will be available next year on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. “Far down the road, we’d like to get into the Smart Phone app arena.”
It’s a book that Hawley and Gould believe will also promote good communication amongst family members.
“This product brings the parent and child together, to do something as a team,” Gould said.
Hawley is excited to see the book get a second life and potentially national exposure.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It was wasting away in that drawer. I’m excited to see it happen.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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