Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Optometrist Fails Eye Exam, Patient Enlightens

Filed under: Advocacy — by at 9:15 pm on Friday, October 19, 2012

Glenda wearing her new purple reading glassesMonday was exam day for my eyes. It didn’t go as well as it could have. Not because my eyes did poorly, but because of the body they inhabit. The jerky, constantly moving, speech impaired body that the optometrist was not enlightened to deal with.

She spoke loudly, simply and repetitively as if me being speech impaired also meant I was impaired cognitively. She admonished me for not keeping my head in the correct position and for not opening my eyes for the drops.

It took all I had within me to a) not yell something back at her, and/or b) not burst into tears. I left the office feeling devalued, depreciated, and downright pissed off.

After spending some time ranting with my friends on Facebook and sleeping on it for a few nights, I decided enlightening this otherwise well-educated woman was my role, my duty. Today I picked up my new purple reading glasses and hand delivered the following letter.

Twitter: @GlendaWH

October 19, 2012

Dear Optometrist:

After my eye exam on Monday, October 15th, I left the office feeling devalued and depleted. I am hoping by sharing the following information, the next exam will go smoother for both of us.

As you might know, I have athetoid cerebral palsy. For me, this means I lack muscle control and coordination. My physical movements are jerky and involuntary; one body part or another is in constant motion. My speech is also significantly impaired, yet can be understood by individuals who take the time to listen.

However, my hearing, understanding and cognition are not affected. There is no need to speak loudly, to repeat yourself or to use simple vocabulary for me to comprehend.

Next time I will grab my iPad from my scooter basket before my scooter is moved out of the way so that I have a more effective means of communication at hand.

My head control is tenuous at times. When conducting the eye pressure test and other such tests during which my head must remain still in a certain position, it might be helpful to have someone hold my head steady.

My eyes closing when something is approaching is a strong, uncontrollable reflex. Repeatedly stating that I need to open my eyes for the eye drops is not productive. Perhaps another method can be found to achieve the same result.

Please keep this letter in my file so that it will be handy for my next appointment in three years, which is what the Ministry will pay for; not the recommended two years. Perhaps in that time you could consult with colleagues and other optometrists for further suggestions on how to best serve patients with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders.

Working together will ensure successful care for my vision.


Glenda Watson Hyatt

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Comment by Wendy

October 19, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

Glenda – what a difficult experience but what a wonderful response! I hope your letter enlightens this woman and gives her insight into your life and how she can better serve all clients she sees.

I admire how you handled this situation.

You are awesome!


Comment by Emma

October 20, 2012 @ 4:38 am

That is the perfect response letter. I do hope it is acted on, so that your next visit isn’t so awful for you. You have acted with such dignity. More than I could have mustered, I think. You have my admiration.

Comment by Val Rainey

October 20, 2012 @ 6:37 am

You go girl! From reading your book I already know that you’re one tough lady and that letter proves it.



Comment by Terry Green

October 20, 2012 @ 6:51 am

As always Glenda … you rock. Very well said!

Comment by Spashionista

October 20, 2012 @ 7:12 am

You let her off far easier than I would have given the same set of circumstances. I wonder if you’ll get a response. I’m curious to see if she was merely ignorant about how to deal with you with regards to your CP or if she suffers from a personality disorder that starts with the letter “B”.

Comment by karen

October 20, 2012 @ 8:18 am

While I tend to agree with Spashionista on this one about letting her off easy, I really believe you did it right for you.

And as important as it is to be an educator and an advocate, I believe this was the right thing to honour your own experience and your feelings about it, above all else.

I was honoured to be a part of the discussion. I hope she learns. For good measure, I encourage you to consider sending this to the Optometrists Union (or society, or whatever) without outing the optometrist .

Comment by Becky McCray

October 20, 2012 @ 10:47 am

I agree with Karen about sending this letter to professional associations of optometrists. It would also be good to share with schools of optometry and even general medical schools.

Comment by Lisa Keith

October 22, 2012 @ 8:42 am

Well done!

I am impressed and humbled by your words. I am a special educator and your information and sharing has been so helpful and insightful for me and, I hope, the student teachers I will be teaching.

Don’t stop believing!


Comment by Jules

October 23, 2012 @ 6:12 am

Very well written letter! I would be interested in hearing the optometrist’s reply.

Comment by Tim Edwards OD.

January 20, 2013 @ 9:38 am

I am so sorry that you had problems, especially with someone not understanding CP that has our level of education. There is certainly no excuse for the lack of patience nor speaking to you as if you had a hearing issue.
Some of the unfortunate limitations that we as Optometrists have is the equipment we use is not designed to move when a patient’s head moves. This makes it difficult to obtain accurate information that is so important for your eye health.
Your idea for having someone hold your head while performing certain tests is a great one!
PS: I am sure that the letter you wrote will have a profound effect on your own Optometrist as most that I know are caring individuals and truly wish to help as much as possible.

Comment by Darren Smith

November 6, 2013 @ 12:35 am

All optometrist should be friendly, patient and kind to all their patients.

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