Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vision in Classrooms

Last week at the School Health Symposium, Michael touched on some of the health issues his students face.  The first two being vision and oral health.  During my observations, I've noticed some students who are squinting to look at the projector screen. Seeing this in Michael’s class hit home for me. I thought of this one time during the 2nd grade, I was sitting in the back of the classroom and the lights were off because my teacher was using the overhead projector.  She called on me to read something she had written on the overhead, and I remember I sat there in silence as she waited for me to answer.  Well at eight years old, I had no idea why I couldn’t read what she had written, and it was incredibly frustrating.  I was able to read what was on the paper in front of me, but I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t read what was on the board.  Little did I know, it was because of my eyesight.  I remember I turned to my friend and whispered to him to help me answer the question.  I think it was a few weeks before I felt comfortable in telling my parents that something was wrong—something that wasn’t in my control.  I think kids don't often realize that something is wrong with their eyes, and instead think that something may be wrong with them as a person (and are too embarrassed to tell someone about it).  It is interesting to think about the mental health impact something like this can have, even when the issue (in this case, vision) is fixable. Two areas where preventive efforts can be made are in schools with 1) having annual vision screenings to identify the problem, and 2) raising students' awareness about the problem, and letting them know that it can be fixed.  Of course, the next component of this is access to an eye doctor, and affordability of eyeglasses.

TFA corps members-- which of your schools have annual vision screenings? How is vision a health issue in your classroom? What resources/health education regarding vision are available for students in your school?

- Sahar Salek, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University

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