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School of Health Sciences Gives Back

By Cheryl Tang

This semester was the first time that students went down to three different screening sites to conduct visual screenings for children | Photo by Charlene Koh Parents were also present to help out as it was challenging to handle some of the children | Photo by Charlene Koh
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This semester was the first time that students went down to three different screening sites to conduct visual screenings for children | Photo by Charlene Koh

For the fourth year running, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) students pursuing a Diploma in Optometry visited non-profit organisations to conduct visual screenings for children.

The visual screenings were held at three Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) centres, where children under the age of six with disabilities such as autism, speech disorders and physical disabilities took part. On Dec 3, 2016, there were 35 parents from SPD@Tampines who signed up to have their children’s eyes checked by 20 students from the School of Health Sciences (HS). This was part of the Year Two students’ Paediatric Vision Management module, where they learn visual development, eye examination and management of children.

The students conducted visual screenings in pairs, which included checks such as colour vision and ocular alignment. In an optical shop, this procedure would cost about $50. For those who failed the visual screening, complimentary cards were given to them for a follow-up session at the NP Optometry Centre, and to receive glasses or contact lenses free-of-charge.

Ms Huang Yuqin, a lecturer at HS, started this visual screening programme in 2013. Back then, she felt that in-class practices were insufficient for her students. “This is a paediatric module – the optometry practical sessions where they would practise on each other would never be as real as the hands-on experience on a child,” she says. “After a screening, the students would usually understand the module better.”

The exposure was both gratifying and challenging for the students. Year Two Optometry student, Valerina Tang, 18, says: “It was fulfilling – I got to help and learn more about children with developmental problems, and how to handle them. They had a very short attention span, so it was difficult to get them to stay still and focused – some of them kept screaming and didn’t want us to touch them, but I just smiled and reassured them to make them feel more at ease.”

Ms Huang says this experiential learning would teach the students to understand the needs of children, society, and to build their communication skills. Indeed, students like Valerina learnt to adapt to the situations quickly and to be more patient when dealing with children.

Parents were glad to bring their children for the eye checks, especially since their children were spending more time on gadgets. Ms Apple Teng, 33, who brought her four-year-old son for his first eye check, says: “The students are quite professional – conducting eye checks like doctors who check for colour blindness and other things.”

The Diploma in Optometry has many activities like these that give the students industry experience. Ms Huang hopes that these will give the students a broad experience before they graduate.

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