The Children’s Vision Center delivers specialized eye care with a tender touch

Stock image, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As a pediatric optometrist and mother of two, Dr. Jenna O’Brien combines cutting-edge vision care with a loving, nurturing attitude for every little patient at The Children’s Vision Center.

Dr. Jenna O’Brien and family celebrate the grand opening of The Children’s Vision Center, St. George, Utah, Aug. 31, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Sandra Hall, St. George News

O’Brien said many of her patients have never visited an eye doctor before coming to The Children’s Vision Center and have no idea what to expect, so their entire staff makes comfort a priority and work to create a fun, friendly atmosphere where children can feel at ease. 

“We really take time to explain every step of the process, because kids like to know what’s going on,” she said. “They don’t like surprises, and that’s where a lot of the fear comes from with going to any kind of doctor.” 

O’Brien and her staff welcomed their first patients in May while navigating the turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, a small group gathered to finally dedicate the clinic with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

O’Brien told St. George News that challenges holding children back in school – such as trouble concentrating or reading – are sometimes caused by vision issues. These problems aren’t always obvious and can be difficult for young children to articulate. 

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of The Children’s Vision Center, St. George, Utah, Aug. 31, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Sandra Hall, St. George News

“Kids may be struggling and not know why, because they don’t know that how they’re seeing isn’t how they’re supposed to see,” she said.  

O’Brien recommends children receive their first eye exam between 6 and 12 months of age, then again during their toddler years, right before starting school and every year thereafter.

While eye diseases in children are rare, early detection and treatment of any abnormalities is key to preventing more serious issues later in life. 

The Children’s Vision Center provides routine eye care along with specialized courses of treatment for myopia control, vision therapy and sports vision. 

In the past, the only option available for children with nearsightedness was a prescription for glasses, usually adjusted yearly as their eyesight continued to deteriorate. However, by controlling myopia, the underlying cause of nearsightedness, doctors can now slow the growth of the eyes to stabilize vision. Treating myopia early reduces the risk of complications and eye diseases developing further into adulthood, O’Brien said, as well as reliance on glasses or contacts. 

Vision therapy assists children with issues that can’t be corrected using glasses or contacts alone, including lazy or misaligned eyes. Through weekly activities, young patients learn to retrain their brain to use both eyes correctly.  

Sports vision programs is another method of treatment at The Children’s Vision Center. This treatment is not intended to fix eye problems but rather to improve reaction time, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness in budding athletes. Training is customized to address the visual demands of the particular sport the child plays. 

“It’s taking the vision aspect of the sport and enhancing what the eyes can do,” O’Brien said.  

Dr. Jenna O’Brien (center) and her staff celebrate the grand opening of The Children’s Vision Center, St. George, Utah, Aug. 31, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Sandra Hall, St. George News

These state-of-the-art vision treatment options are only available in Southern Utah through The Children’s Vision Center, she said. As the clinic’s sole provider, she personally examines each patient and develops an individualized therapy program for their unique needs. 

Born and raised in the Beehive State, O’Brien graduated from the University of Utah and the Southern College of Optometry before completing her training with a residency in ocular disease in Tennessee. She has lived in St. George for four years with her husband, Kevin, and their sons, ages 2 and 4. 

“As I got into practice, I was seeing patients of all ages, but I found that I really enjoyed seeing the kids,” she said. “I love the results when they don’t know that they’ve been struggling because of their vision, and then they get their glasses and they have that ‘Wow!’ moment.” 

After her children were born, O’Brien realized the community was in need of specialized pediatric eye care. The process of opening her own clinic took a couple of years of dedicated planning and preparation. 

“As a mom myself, I know that someone who is comfortable with kids is going to give better care,” she said. “We’re offering a new service and a new option in St. George that will benefit children and help them succeed – in school, in sports and all the things that are important to them.”

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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