Healing Myopic Children: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Healing Myopic Children: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
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Mohammad Ashraf Rather

I am suffering from myopia since my childhood but unfortunately, like hundreds of children, my condition was neither identified by my parents nor by my teachers at an early stage. I came to know about my eye ailment(myopia) very late when i was studying in the 12th standard. Myopia, also known as near-sightedness and short-sightedness, is a condition of the eye where the light that comes in does not directly focus on the retina but in front of it, causing the image that one sees when looking at a distance object to be out of focus. It does not affect focus when looking at a close object.
I feel compelled to write something about this much prevalent eye problem/ condition among school going children on this special day (Children’s Day) because of the two reasons. First , since I have worked in various schools from last five years and I have seen a large number of students in these educational institutions who are suffering from visual impairment (myopia) and seeing such little kids suffering racked my very being. I am always worrying about such children in other schools who may have the same problem ;thus I am eagerly waiting for the early identification of the problem by school teachers and, thereafter, immediate treatment for them. I do not want to see such students suffer in schools and , on account of negligence, worsen their eye sight.
Second, I feel restless from the day when I read a report published by one of the newspapers regarding myopia wherein the top medical institute of India in Delhi (AIIMS) , in its study, has revealed that over 13% of the school going children in India has turned myopic due to excess usage of electronic gadgets. Thus, it becomes imperative for all school teachers to feel and understand the importance of identifying such children in their classrooms as early as possible because early identification definitely can prevent worsening of their eye sight in future. Not only this, timely identification and treatment can even be of very helpful in removing such eye sight defect among such children. But, neglecting such students with this kind of visual impairment can lead them into great trouble in the future.
Why on the occasion of Children’s Day , I want to highlight this problem among children because tits prevalence among school going children creates barriers in the child for achieving his/ her maximum learning potential. Eye sight defect ( myopia) even can lead to early dropping out of the school system. I n order to help such children achieve the goals set for them, the teacher’s role becomes very significant.
As teachers, we cannot continue to teach, ignoring the problem s of these children. We have to put our experience together and think of suitable, corrective measures for helping these children overcome their problems. In the absence of such measures, the learning problems of these children will continue to multiply and under the stress of frustration, they are likely to drop out sooner than later. These children are also likely to develop aggression and behavioral problems which are not only detrimental to their wellbeing but may disturb the educational progress of other children in the class!
There are children in every society who are totally blind and those with low level vision .The former kind of children do not have sufficient vision and cannot find their way while walking. They need the Braille Script ( reading through touch) as they cannot read the usual text. These children also experience difficulties in learning due to problems in understanding concepts, processing information and establishing social relationships.
The low Vision children do not require Braille. Their vision may be easily corrected through a lens. Some can read only large print of 18 points and above. Some require magnifying glasses to read. A few children with low vision have a restricted field of vision. It is necessary for teachers to identify such children and provide special help towards their education.
Children often inherit shortsightedness from their parents. Here I would like to state that symptoms may only be discovered at school with different reading whiteboards at the front of the class. Thus, teachers’ role becomes paramount for identification of such children with this kind of visual impairment. Keeping aside teachers, parents also have an important role to play as they need to make it sure that their child is medically examined in the first year of life, then at the age of three, and at least every two years afterwards, especially if there is a family history of progressive short sightedness or other eye condition.
Here I would like to put some symptoms of myopic children for parents, in general, and THE teacher fraternity , in particular , into perspective ,so that they might be able to identify such myopic children:
* Observable deformity in the eye(s);
* Rubs eyed frequently;
* Frequent reddening of eyes;
* Covers one eye and tilts head forward;
* Holds objects including the book close to his/ her eyes;
* Asks other children for help when taking notes from the blackboard;
* Blinks frequently;
* Eyes water;
* Squints eyelids together;
* Frequently complains about headache following close eye work;
* Bumps into people or objects.
As a teacher , if you observe some of the behaviors/ issues listed above, the child may have visual problems. The remedy is to immediately refer the child to the nearby hospital for an immediate eye check-up. There is also a need to inform parents. Medical care and treatment becomes vitally important. Till such help becomes available following guidelines to carry out functional assessment of visually impaired children, might be used:
*Practice in listening comprehension in order to reduce the reading load;
* Using auditory aides if available;
* Use of more tactile and three dimensional aids;
* No differential treatment after children have acquired mobility training;
* Using proper contrast and large print for low vision children and Braile for the blind;
* Minimizing sound when teaching;
* Reading aloud while writing on the blackboard;
*Ask a classmate to work together with the child realizing his/her strengths and underscoring the lack of vision;
* Giving clear and specific directions and verbal clues while giving instructions and teaching.
If the teacher fraternity especially who are engaged in teaching to Pre primary and primary classes bear above mentioned issues and themes in mind, it will definitely , help them to recognize and identify such children in their classes and then helping in dealing with them as per their need(s), thus preventing further deterioration in this kind of disability among students which is mostly likely to happen if not recognized and attended to in time.
Finally, I strongly feel that the above cited guidelines howsoever good they may be are only a tool to help teachers to identify and teach such students effectively. Therefore, it is the teacher and only the teacher who is competent to decide his/ her teaching strategies in the classroom and is the best judge on how to use these guidelines to meet the special needs of his/ her students who need special attention.
School authorities, in no way, can be exempt from worrying about the presence of such students in their schools. They should feel bound t to make sure that all school students get a free eye checkup once in a year in their schools. Thus, timely identification of these myopic students by teachers will definitely help in reducing the number of severely affected myopic children in schools. Last but not least, all parents should let their children go outside and play well as an alternative to relying more on modern electronic gadgets. This would definitely lessen the burden on their eyes pre-empt problems issues of this nature

—The author works with ALOHA, J&K. He can be reached at: ratherashraf44@gmail.com

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