A unique partnership at Confederation Park Community School is providing a clear vision for students, their learning success and the school community.
Since opening in the fall of 2015, the Eye See Eye Learn Optometric Clinic located at the school has made a difference by providing better access to eye care for students such as Wyatt Predy.
"I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the Eye See Eye Learn program for replacing my glasses. I really appreciate it. I am happy," Wyatt told the Saskatoon Board of Education during the Celebrating Excellence portion of its Dec. 6 meeting
The clinic operates every second Tuesday of the month during the school year and during its first year of operation 162 students received an eye examination. The clinic also provides follow up services that may be required, such as glasses, and works with its partners to help ensure students' vision needs are addressed so they can learn to the best of their ability.
The services provided by the clinic and its unique location at the school are also a benefit to the parents of students, according to Denise Wills, Wyatt's mother.
"When he first got his glasses, before this program actually came in to Confederation Park, they just did a simple screening. Then I had to take him to the optometrist. This time it is very much appreciated that the Lions Club covered the cost of his glasses because they can be expensive," she said. "And, I didn't have to make an appointment, take him there and have him miss school. That is really great that they have it at the school and they do a full examination."
The clinic, a partnership between Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists, Saskatchewan Optometric Foundation and Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation, is filling a need in the community according to Sheila Spence of the optometrists' association.
"Working together, the clinic was established to remove barriers for children who might not have the ability or the family co-ordination to obtain an eye examination and ultimately to ensure that all children have the best vision possible to help them learn and develop their full potential," said Sheila Spence, executive director of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists.
Although the cost of an eye exam for anyone under the age of 18 is covered by the Ministry of Health, Spence says less than 40 per cent of Saskatchewan five-year-olds receive an eye exam.
"We know that healthy eyes and good eyesight are important for academic success. We also realize that schools have become more than an educational setting. In today's age of constant change schools have become centres of health education, nutritional programs and family education and support," she said.
"We hope that with continued promotion of the Eye See Eye Learn program the number of children seeking an eye exam will increase."
Dr. Jill Gryschuk, the program's optometrist, says a complete exam is a chance to ensure that the eyes are working well together, to identify any vision needs such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism and to educate students and families about eye health.
The opportunity provided by the Eye See Eye Learn clinic to identify those needs early can make a significant difference to a student's learning and success in school as well as throughout their life.
"When we are young, our brain is still changing, it's still developing," Gryschuk said. "With vision, if our brain never gets that input of what clear vision actually is, it will never develop that after about the age of eight or 10. These kids need to be caught early so they can see well, so they can make sure they are performing well at school and continue to see well throughout their life."
Dr. Dorothy Barrie, chair of the Children's Vision Initiative, says that with the cost of the exam covered under health care, the clinic is able to make sure that any student with a vision need receives glasses either through a family's health or benefit plans, through supplemental insurance or with the support of the program by the Lions Club and the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists.
"These are kids that don't have access to optometric services often. The reason for the Eye See Eye Learn program is education. We want to make sure the parents know that children must have an eye exam before kindergarten. For kids with limited access or resources, the Eye See Eye Learn clinic at Confederation Park Community School provides the setting," Barrie said.
"Our goal is to make sure that kids are seeing the best they can from an early age."