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July 26 2012
The AOP urges parents and carers to take their child for a sight test over the school holidays and encourages practitioners to promote the importance of regular sight tests for children
All children dream about what they’ll be when they grow up – pilot, fire fighter, train driver or police officer – however, up to 1 million children will return to school in September with an undiagnosed vision problem which could prohibit them from achieving their dreams. So, the AOP is urging parents and carers to take their child for a sight test over the school holidays, while encouraging practitioners to get involved in their community to promote the importance of regular sight tests for children.
Poor eyesight can have a significant effect on a child’s ability to learn and on their behaviour, yet often goes unrecognised by the children themselves and the adults around them. These learning and behavioural problems can lead to poor performance in the classroom and, ultimately, an undetected vision concern could lead to disappointment as career dreams meet reality.
The AOP has designed four new posters to highlight this important issue and they are available for download at www.aop.org.uk/childrenseyehealth/posters
. There was also
a hard copy of the pilot version of the poster in the last edition of OT
. Capturing the innocence and imagination of youth, the posters show children dreaming of their future occupation. Unfortunately however, both statistics and the AOP’s case studies show that many children are beginning one of the most important stages of their life with potential vision problems.
For practitioners, it is very simple to get involved and to help build awareness around children’s eye health, as optometrist Polly Dulley and the AOP team found out when they visited two primary schools last month. Taking resources downloaded from the AOP website (www.aop.org.uk/ childrenseyehealth
), they worked with a number of classes, ranging from pre- school (ages four to five) to Year Two (ages six to seven).
With each class containing around 30 eager pupils, preparation really was the key to the success of the school visits. Thankfully, the AOP has the whole lesson covered. Downloading and printing the worksheets and activities in advance ensured there were plenty of eye-health activities for the children to get involved in, and the ‘See Ahead’ stickers proved an invaluable motivational tool to keep the children focused and on track.
The class began with introductions, and a short presentation on the importance of eye health. Keeping the attention of such young children may seem a daunting task, but the presentation is peppered with fun facts, animations and cartoons that entertained the class from beginning to end. Ms Dulley combined the talk with asking the children questions about their own experiences of visiting an optometrist.
Those who had recently had their eyes checked loudly voiced their (mostly positive) opinions. A handful of children were wearing spectacles, but when questioned further it was discovered that a number of others
had specs too, but had either left them at home or in their school bags. By focusing positively on the children who did wear their spectacles, those with glasses in their school bag were soon itching to put them on – how long this will last we cannot say, but it was certainly a small victory for children’s eye health.
The pupils then moved on to working on their ‘eye health packs’. A hit with all concerned, the folders contained numerous worksheets including a fun quiz and some colouring exercises. The exercise where the children drew each other’s eyes and designed some spectacles frames was especially popular.
Sue Maran, head teacher at Rokesly Infant School, Haringey, London, said, “I feel absolutely passionate about early detection of eye conditions. Young children are such visual learners and the thought that they could be missing embedding the foundation of their learning through an unidentified eye condition – that could be easily corrected – is simply wrong.“Three cheers for the eye people!” one particularly enthusiastic pupil cried as the final workshop ended.
Ms Maran, concluded, “The children thoroughly enjoyed being part of this project and we are proud that our school could help promote such a simple but key test to help ensure the best future opportunities for all children.”
Karen Sparrow, optometrist and education adviser for the AOP, recently visited Meonstoke CE School in Hampshire, and echoes that it should be a positive experience for any practitioner. She says, “Going into schools is a real pleasure, a welcome change from the day job and an opportunity to raise awareness in children’s eye care.”
“The teachers are keen to help in the activities and also noted any children that had difficulties in any of the visual tasks, ready to have a quiet word with mum or dad at the end of the day. Each child also went home with a parents’ letter telling them more about NHS eye tests and the need for regular and early eye care for children.”
Head teacher at the school, Linda Coumbe, said, “We try to allow our children to be independent and telling them about how to keep their eyes healthy helps us to support this. The facts that were shared were appropriate for the age of our children and we are grateful for the support given by Ms Sparrow.”
Thomas, aged seven, said, “I learnt some interesting eye facts like your eyes use as much energy as your legs in real true life and some people can’t see in colour and eagles can see a really, really long way. The best bit was the video in 3D we watched and we drew a picture of our eyes.”
If you are still in two minds about whether or not to do a school visit,
take a moment to consider the impact you could have on a whole class full of school children, and how just a small number of those children through your door could impact your business. As Karen Sparrow comments, “It is an amazing experience to have such an enthusiastic audience and such an opportunity to get the eye care message out there in a fun way. Anyone thinking of going into their local school to talk about eyes – do it – you will have as much fun as the kids.”
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