We are hoping this page will provide answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. If you have a question that is not covered here, please email us.
An ocularist is a thoroughly trained professional skilled in the art of fitting, painting and fabricating custom ocular prostheses. In addition to creating custom ocular prostheses, and providing long-term care through periodic examinations, an ocularist provides the patient with complete instructions on the care and maintenance of their prosthesis.
The American Society of Ocularists (ASO), founded in 1957, is a professional organization of qualified Ocularist members. The purpose of the ASO is to promote high standards through research and education in the field of ophthalmic prosthetics. Today the ASO maintains quality ocularistry through its continuing education programs and collaboration with Ophthalmology. The ASO boasts 262 Members from more than 12 Countries from around the world.
The College of Ocularistry is the premier school of Ocularistry, providing a formal diploma to anyone seeking to become an Ocularist. The ASO COO, established October 2017 to replace the former ASO Education Program, functions under the auspices of the American Society of Ocularist and its Board of Directors. The ASO COO provides a complete education in Ocularistry utilizing an Intern program that provides hands-on training and formal course instruction related to all aspects of the profession. Completion of the degree program requires a minimum of 10,000 hours (5 years) of practical training and 750 credits of course instruction. (See the ASO College of Ocularistry charter for more details.)
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Artificial eye-making has been practiced since ancient times. The first ocular prostheses were made as early as the fifth century B.C., by Roman and Egyptian priests. Those early artificial eyes, known as an ecblepharon, were made of painted clay attached to cloth and worn outside the socket.
It took many centuries for the first in-socket artificial eyes to be developed. At first, these were made of gold and colored with enamel. In the later part of the sixteenth century, the Venetians started making artificial eyes from glass. These early glass eyes were most likely crude, uncomfortable to wear, and fragile. The Venetians, while keeping their methods secret, continued to make artificial eyes from glass until the end of the eighteenth century. Over time the center for artificial eye-making shifted in Europe to Paris, France. By the mid-nineteenth century with, the development of a superior glass and glass fabrication techniques by German glass-artisans, the center for glass eye-making, migrated to Germany.
Glass artificial eye-making was introduced to the United States in, primarily by glass eye makers of German and French decent in the 1800’s. During Second World War the superior glass, imported from Germany, used for glass prostheses became unavailable in North America. As a result of this shortage, the U.S. Government, in conjunction with a number of US firms, developed techniques for making artificial eyes from acrylic polymers.
The popularity of acrylic, as a material for artificial eye fabrication, continued to increase in the 20th Century, and today the vast majority of patients who wear ocular prostheses in North America wear a prosthesis made from acrylic. Artificial eyes of both plastic and glass continue to be made in some European countries today.
"Stock" or "ready-made" ocular prostheses are mass-produced. Since a "stock eye" is not made for any particular person, it does not fit or match in color. A "custom" ocular prosthesis, on the other hand, is specifically made by an Ocularist to fit and match a patient’s companion eye in all aspects. A custom artificial eye is also designed to promote the long term health and development of the patient’s socket. A “stock-eye” does not.
It is generally recommended that infants under 3 years of age be seen every 3 months; patients under 9 twice yearly, and all other patients at least once a year.
The acrylic ocular prosthesis, like hard contact lenses, needs to be polished regularly in order to restore the acrylic surface with a proper finish and insure the health of the surrounding tissues. This may be as often as every six months.
You should consult with your Ocularist to determine how often you or your dependent should be seen.
If insurance coverage is available, most Ocularist offices will assist you in every possible way to obtain full benefits of your policy. However, it should be noted that the patient, or in the case of children, a parent or guardian is always responsible for payment...and in the case of HMO'S it is always necessary to obtain a referral before work can begin.
In most states in the US, and most countries, there are no laws governing Ocularists. When choosing an Ocularist, you should look for the following credentials:
· Diplomate Membership in the American Society of Ocularists; a graduate of the ASO Education Program (pre-October, 2017) or ASO College of Ocularistry, designated and located as such on the ASO website: www.ocularists.org
· Certification by the National Examining Board of Ocularists; certified by NEBO and designated as “BCO” or “Board Certified Ocularist" and located on the NEBO website: Neboboard.org
By enrolling in the College of Ocularistry (COO), administered by the American Society of Ocularists. The College accepts those with little experience or others with many hours of prior Ocularist training. The ASO COO Intern Program requires the student study all aspects of ocular prosthetics, and spend a minimum of five years (10,000 hours) in practical training. The Intern must also successfully complete 750 credits of related course instruction offered by the College. Upon successful completion of all requirements a diploma from the American Society of Ocularists College of Ocularistry, is awarded. The ASO College of Ocularistry Diploma provides membership into the American Society of Ocularists. The College does not discriminate for any reason against anyone seeking enrollment in the school.
Interns in the ASO College of Ocularistry can complete their training in a shorter term (10,000 hours vs. 16,000 hours) if they have a qualified Intern Supervisor. Only Board Approved Diplomates of the American Society of Ocularists (BADO’s) are qualified to be Intern Supervisors. Intern Supervisors are not arranged by the ASO College of Ocularistry. A person seeking a Supervisor should contact BADO Ocularists in their area to locate someone who is willing to be their Supervisor. For people willing and able to relocate, we suggest attending one of the bi-annual ASO conferences to meet Ocularists from different parts of the country.
After November 2017 only those who hold a diploma from the ASO Education Program or the ASO College of Ocularistry, or who are currently certified by the National Examining Board of Ocularist (NEBO) can become members of the ASO.
To become an Ocularist you need a thorough education in all matters related to ocularistry. The American Society of Ocularists College of Ocularistry offers a complete education in Ocularistry
Note: It is not necessary to be a
member of the ASO or an Intern of the ASO College of Ocularistry to attend ASO
Conferences and most of the course instruction. If you are interested in
attending courses related to the profession you may attend one or more of the
ASO bi-annual conferences as a Non-member. (See the ASO web site home page for
the upcoming conferences)
Courses in the sciences provide a good base, as well as courses in art, sculpting, critical writing, communication and applied psychology.
The National Examining Board of Ocularist (NEBO) makes available a certification exam to Ocularists. The National Examining Board of Ocularists is an independent entity whose directors come from the following participating organizations:
· American Academy of Ophthalmology
· American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics
· American Society of Ocularists
· Canadian Society of Ocularists
· Public Members
NEBO awards the title, Board Certified Ocularist (BCO), to those Ocularists who successfully complete a comprehensive two-part written and practical examination. All BCOs must complete continuing education requirements and be recertified by NEBO every six years.