[NOTE: The author’s use of the word ‘squint’ here is what we call strabismus today, not the narrowing of the eyes.]
Squints in principle are excessive imbalance, and though there are many kinds, and many causes, the main effect is that both eyes do not look at an object at the same time, for they are not equally balanced in the face or socket. In some cases both eyes see the object at the same time, but the images are not fused into one, and so two images are seen. Generally, and fortunately, however, one eye only will be used to see with, the other eye slipping into the corner or turning outward. Sometimes this eye is so unused that it is, to all intents and purposes, blind; in other cases either eye is used, as both are equally normal as to sight. When double vision takes place, i.e. each eye sees an object at once and therefore sees two objects, there is much more difficulty in straightening the eyes than in the other cases.
Squints can be due to loose muscles or too-strong muscles; in some cases the eyes slip about out of control; in others they refuse to move beyond a certain point.
Some squints are caused at birth through a difficult confinement, some through one eye being awakened before the other. It should be ‘remembered that part of the training of the young child is to help him to control his limbs and his senses. It is more difficult to learn to see than to learn to walk, but little help is given nowadays. The old-fashioned rattle which was shaken just before the child’s face, attracting both his eyes and ears, was an excellent thing, but, like so many other good things, has mainly fallen into disuse. Movement, as has been seen, is essential to sight, and the child’s eyes should be `exercised’ by showing him objects, moving them up and down, and from side to side. The sponge, the ball, the toy~all can be used scientifically to help.
Health is important, for a healthy body throws off disease, and without any inoculations and injections is quite capable of dealing with the epidemics which are the dread of the mother. The death-rate from the various children’s diseases will fluctuate according to seasons and cycles, and the healthy child will survive, inoculated or not, whereas the craze for injections renders the body unhealthy right away. One writer in a paper lately stated that the doctor who had inoculated him against the many diseases he might possibly contact when going abroad said to him: “How these germs get on with one another after they are injected into the body, we don’t know.” (These are not the exact words, but the sense of the statement.)
Squints can be caused, also, by fear, or a desire to hide because of fear: they can come as the result of whooping-cough, measles, etc. But whatever the cause, glasses are not the cure, neither is operation, except in the rarest of cases. If taken at once there is little trouble with them; if left for years, they can still be put right. Naturally it means work, but if incorporated with school or nursery games it is not tedious to the child.
I cannot refrain from mentioning one incident which will show the light, side of our work. A mother brought her little girl; one of whose eyes had a squint, not all the time, but often enough for her to worry about it. As she lived in the country, she was given exercises to do and the mother asked to write after three weeks or a month and give a report. She did. Her report said: “I cannot say how the squint is, because she has not squinted lately”!!
One case that is very pleasing to remember is of a girl who squinted badly. We lost sight of her after treatment, but some years later she wrote a letter of thanks: “My eyes are perfectly straight, and you alone of all people can appreciate what that means to me. There is even a chance for me later to appear on the films, and with my eyes in their previous condition all such work, as on the stage as well, would have been impossible.”