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Paterson Burn and Rototuna Primary team up

15 March 2019

Paterson Burn and Rototuna Primary set their sights on improving kids’ vision with free screening programme

Paterson Burn Optometrists have teamed up with Rototuna Primary School to carry out a study that aims to help identify visual issues that affect students’ learning.

A group of Paterson Burn optometrists and assistants have today been at Rototuna Primary School to carry out free screening for all Year 3 and Year 4 students at the school. The information they glean will not only help the students who take part but will also form part of a wider study – called Vision to Learn – that hopes to determine how prevalent undiagnosed visual conditions are in school children.

The idea for the initiative was borne out of discussions between the school and Paterson Burn’s visual therapy specialist optometrist Kim Stedman.

“Members of the school had spoken with me about potential visual conditions in children who they’ve noticed have struggled with reading and writing,” Kim said.

“They were looking for more information on vision and the impact on the students learning. From our conversations, we developed the concept for this project.

“We want to understand how prevalent undiagnosed visual conditions are in a Hamilton-based school population and then explore an alternative treatment method.”

“Many of these students have 20/20 vision but their eyes just may not be doing the other behavioural work they should be,” Kim said.

The standard screening done by the Ministry of Health measures what a child can see in the distance ie, 20/20 vision.

Kim said most of the visual demand for children at school is near based. “So, this screening is being tailored to detect visual problems that present at that reading/writing/computer distance.”

Kim said Paterson Burn’s Children’s Vision Clinic identifies and improves vision problems that may be impacting a child’s learning development.

“If visual skills are not well developed, learning can become more stressful and difficult. Symptoms children might exhibit include: demonstrating a short attention span; tiring easily; avoiding reading or writing whenever possible; not easily comprehending the task at hand; closing one eye to read, write or concentrate; behavioural problems.”

Paterson Burn provided six optometrists, two assistants and the equipment necessary for the screening on the day. They would be looking for specific visual deficits that have been proven barriers to efficient learning.

“Some of the key visual deficits we are looking for are best treated by visual therapy,” Kim said.

“Visual therapy is a program of exercises used to improve the coordination and efficient functioning of the visual system. Traditionally it is done within an optometry practice or in the child’s home.”

However, as part of the study, the school wants to improve access to the treatment by running the visual therapy programme at school. Students who need treatment will be able to attend the programme run by trained teacher aides – under the guidance of Paterson Burn – for four days a week for a term.

Local trust Te Kopu Limited will provide financial support for a full eye examination for all the students that fail the screening process.


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