[blindkid] Notes on Eye Poking

Traci Wilkerson traci.renee27 at gmail.com
Tue May 1 14:30:43 UTC 2012

I think what you have said is very good!  Evan presses more under his brow
than directly on his eye, so I agree there is some stimulation need that is
going on there.  He has definitely pressed his eyes in and we can now see a
gap between his eye ball and his eyelids/skin.  We will keep your thoughts
in mind, we definitely remind him that he doesn't want to harm his eyes by

Thanks again,
On Apr 30, 2012 10:48 PM, "Arielle Silverman" <arielle71 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi all,
> To address the questions about eye poking: Over the years I have
> conversed with several parents dealing with eye poking as well as
> several blind teens and adults who are recovering pokers themselves
> (in different stages of recovery). Unfortunately despite all this
> discussion and sharing of ideas I don't know of any easy solutions. I
> do, however, believe that eye poking is quite a different animal from
> rocking, spinning and other such "blindisms" even though it often gets
> lumped in with the others. Rocking, etc. often serves as a form of
> expression as it appears when one is excited or aroused in some way,
> but eye poking tends to be a more constant habit and is done when one
> is bored or even while sleeping. It also appears to be much more
> common with certain eye conditions and in fact, a majority of eye
> pokers i've met or talked with have LCA (aka Lebers) although I admit
> my sample is biased and it may very well be part of other eye
> conditions too. Based on my nonscientific observation, it seems like
> eye poking has a much more primitive basis and that it satisfies some
> neurological need within the eyes or between the eyes and brain. It
> also appears very early in infancy, before movement patterns are
> developed and certainly before a baby is capable of much learned
> behavior. Because of its primitive nature, the habit is extremely hard
> to completely and permanently get rid of, which is why there are so
> many "recovering" pokers out there (including myself).
> It is definitely possible for children to learn to reduce the
> frequency of poking or to stop it in certain kinds of situations, such
> as in public. This happens through old-fashioned parenting, reminding,
> rewarding good behavior, etc. just as kids can learn to sit still and
> to say please and thank you. However, as with rocking, rewards and
> reminders don't address the underlying need that's driving the
> behavior. Unfortunately we haven't really figured out what that need
> is or how to address it. I do know of one young man who figured out
> that he could stop himself completely from poking by pressing on a
> certain spot on his brow, and I have also heard of people teaching
> themselves to squint or flex their eye muscles instead of poking. I
> suspect the real solution will be a special pair of glasses that puts
> pressure on the nerves that are craving stimulation. We need an
> inventor among us who is really motivated to tackle this problem. :)
> In the meantime, I do think glasses may be a wise deterrent attempt
> even if a child reaches under them, because they can help encourage
> awareness of the behavior and make it easier to consciously stop in
> certain situations. Even if not eliminating the poking completely,
> reducing the frequency will help keep eyes healthy. While I think the
> claims that years of poking will lead to grotesquely sunken eyes are
> old-wives' tales, I am pretty sure that too much can increase the risk
> of certain kinds of eye complications in adulthood (such as corneal
> shape changes) and, in my own experience, can cause plain old
> irritation.
> Finally, I think it's important to address the issue, but to do it in
> a positive and nonemotional way whenever possible. Sometimes parents
> can get really emotionally worked up about their children's eye poking
> and their inability to stop it. Sometimes I worry that these extreme
> reactions come from the fact that poking reminds them of their
> children's blindness and the fact that their children's eyes are
> "different". We should teach children that eye poking is not a good
> idea both because it's not good for their future eye health and
> because it looks weird to sighted people around them. However, we also
> want them to learn to accept the fact that their eyes are different
> and to perceive their blindness as a positive part of their identity.
> Although I think my parents handled my own poking well for the most
> part, there were a few times when I felt their reactions to my poking
> were really reactions to my blindness itself. As adults we understand
> the difference between rejecting a child's blindness and rejecting a
> child's blindisms, but a young child with a concrete mind won't
> necessarily see that distinction. It's important not to take it
> personally if you and your child don't find an easy or consistent
> resolution to the poking. I also don't think it's productive to make
> kids feel ashamed of something that is at least partially out of their
> control. I remember reading a story written by a blind woman whose
> mother made her write "I will not poke my eyes" five hundred times in
> a row and she felt like a horrible person but didn't understand what
> she had done or how she could avoid doing it again. We don't want kids
> to feel inadequate because they are unable to control a behavior they
> don't understand or are even aware of most of the time. Start slow,
> explain why the poking is bad, offer alternatives and eventually
> empower your child to gain more and more control. This won't happen
> right away and they may never gain full awareness or full control, but
> they can definitely develop a healthy ownership of their eyes and be
> motivated to make an effort to keep their fingers out of them. If you
> can be patient enough to wait for this to happen, then eye poking will
> eventually become a manageable issue without being a source of shame
> or contention.
> Best,
> Arielle
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