What a difference a year makes.
Last June, 10-month-old Piper Verdusco refused to crawl. Her parents never imagined her developmental delay was because she couldn’t see what was in front of her face.
After an optometrist diagnosed Piper as severely farsighted, her parents captured her trying on new glasses in a YouTube video called “Piper can see!”
Soon, 40 million viewers swooned as the adorable baby burst into smiles wearing her pink specs for the first time.
Now, on the one-year anniversary of that day, Piper has switched to blue glasses and is “the happiest baby you will ever see,” said her father, Andrew Verdusco, an Uber driver from Cincinnati.
“We heard from people around the world,” he told TODAY. “The video was pretty amazing and it seemed to touch a lot of people deeply.”
“She is about to turn 2 and doing great,” said Verdusco, 28. “We thought there was something wrong because Piper had never attempted to walk or crawl. Then she put the glasses on and everything happened instantaneously.”
After Piper’s experience, Verdusco wants to encourage other parents to take their young children to the eye doctor.
Luckily, Piper’s mother, Jessica Sinclair, 27, works in an eye doctor’s office and suspected something was wrong. A visit to an optometrist revealed the baby was severely farsighted.
A 2015 survey conducted by the American Optometric Association found only about 19 percent of respondents knew that a baby’s first eye exam should be between 6 and 9 months.
The next check-up should be around age 3, unless there are other problems.
“Infants can’t tell you what’s going on,” said Piper’s optometrist, Josiah Young of OptiCare Vision Center in Newport, Kentucky. “Their world is very dependent upon vision and touch. They bring things to their mouth to feel and vision is a huge part of that.”
“Imagine you can’t see beyond a couple of feet away and it’s blurred,” he said. “You are hesitant to move in that direction and less likely to explore if your vision is so poor. You are fearful.”
Studies show that children who get get glasses early perform better in school, he said.
Piper’s exam was free because Young is a member of the AOA, which sponsors the program InfantSee, providing no-cost eye tests to children 6 to 12 months old.
Poor eyesight is not common among young children, although about one in nine have a refractive error, he said.
“It’s hit or miss and you don’t know about it until it’s checked,” said Young.
Piper’s eye exam was painless. Young dilated her pupils and used a retina scope to bounce a light off her retina to measure her prescription.
“We wanted to have her put on her glasses in the office, but she was tired and cranky, which is normal for kids that age,” said Young.
So he suggested her parents take Piper next door to a restaurant and try again when she was more relaxed. That's where the family shot the video of Piper's joyous reaction to seeing her parents for the first time.
“The world opens up when they see mom and dad with clarity,” said Young.
Piper’s prescription hasn’t changed in a year, and as she grows, her vision could improve, said her father.
“By fourth or fifth grade, it could be completely corrected.”
“You don’t have to have a reason to go to the eye doctor,” Verdusco said. “Parents go years without knowing what is wrong, and down the road kids can have eyes that are not working well.”
“I definitely recommend you get their eyes checked,” he said. “You never know what could happen.”
Milestones in Baby’s Vision, from the American Optometric Association
Birth to four months: Focusing on objects eight to ten inches from them or focusing on their parent’s face, and the start of eye-hand coordination development.
Five to eight months: This marks the start of depth perception awareness and once a child reaches the eight month mark, he/she begins to crawl.
Nine to 12 months: During this time, babies start to grasp objects and pull themselves up to a standing position. By 12 months, most infants will start to walk.
One to two years: Children will begin to recognize objects and should now have a developed sense of eye-hand coordination and depth perception.