Sharing The Vision Program Helps Students In Hartford
October 24, 2008
About 1,000 Hartford students received free eyeglasses this week through the "Sharing the Vision" program.
Each day about 200 students, from elementary school through high school, lined up at six different stations at the Artists Collective on Albany Avenue to get eye exams and frame fittings.
They pressed their faces against different machines while volunteer optometrists used the machines to scan, blow puffs of air into and examine the students' eyes. At the end of the day, students were given prescriptions for glasses and, in a few more serious cases, were referred to specialists for extra help.
"These are comprehensive eye exams, not just for vision," said Pam Clark, the school district's manager for school-based clinics. "That's how we pick up on these other problems."
Organizers said they believe there is a direct correlation between vision and school achievement.
"A lot of kids, they say they have ADD or motivation issues, when really it's frustrating because they can't see the board or they can't read their papers," said Debra Toupence, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Optometrists.
The event has been held in some form since 1999, and in past years, students have been diagnosed with glaucoma and other eye problems. In one extreme case, a student had a detached retina and had to have surgery immediately, Clark said.
Students are screened by their school nurses and referred to the program if their vision is 20/40 or worse. Many already have prescriptions, Toupence said, but many also have lost or broken their glasses and can't afford new ones or need updated prescriptions.
Over the past 10 years, the event has expanded, gaining sponsors that include Aetna and Focus on Kids Inc., a local nonprofit for Hartford children. This year, about 80 optometrists from across the state volunteered, Toupence said.
Follow-up exams and treatment are also provided free by doctors who volunteer, Clark said.
"We're definitely making an impact," Clark said. "But it's not [meeting] the district's total needs."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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