[blindkid] Notes on Eye Poking

Carol Castellano carol.joyce.castellano at gmail.com
Thu May 3 17:05:58 UTC 2012

My mom threatened to do things like that to me to make me stop biting 
my nails when I was 9 or 10 or so.  I finally made the decision to stop.

Serena was an eye presser until about 7th grade when she got an eye 
infection.  We told her it was due to the pressing--hey, maybe it 
was.  But that got her to stop.


At 03:20 PM 5/1/2012, you wrote:
>I agree with much of what you say -- although I don't think eye 
>poking is specific to one eye condition or another.  I have ROP and 
>can poke with the best of them.  I think the unifying theme is 
>probably that the condition starts at birth or early on.
>I mostly stopped, but at times of stress or deep thought that finger 
>creeps up.  I think we do it because it makes one feel like he/she 
>sees colors -- some kind of stimulation.
>My parents tried things that would be thought of as mean today, 
>probably, different times, they wrapped my fingers with adhesive 
>tape, they painted them with idine etc.  They mostly got me to the 
>point of being conscious enough of it that I would stop.
>At 09:45 PM 4/30/2012, you 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
>>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.
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