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Eyes and Ears

In the blink of an eye, you may have had your first born start Prep or finally sent the last of your tribe off to school, phew! By now your new Preppy may have also realised that yes, they do need to go to school every day for the next 13 years of their life and this is how it is, welcome to the real world my friend!

No doubt you have encountered them being exhausted after school and the witching hour hits, sending you back to the days when they were babies and all you wanted to do was feed, bath, and put them to bed. Now there is a reader to do and possibly some words to learn or homework tasks. Not so simple. The good thing is, they will adjust to the school days and so will you!

As a teacher, parents come to me with concerns about their child’s progress in reading or other areas of the curriculum or I might approach the parent about some concerns or observations of my own. The two most common and basic tests I believe children need to have done when they start school is an eye test, carried out by an optometrist and a hearing test, carried out by an audiologist. Both of these tests can be bulk billed and can give us vital information about perhaps why a student is not making progress or why the student is behaving a certain way.

Let’s face it, our children are exposed to screens a lot earlier in life and believe it or not, this will impact their eye sight at some stage in their life. High Energy Visible (HEV) blue light reflects off the screen and can cause eye strain. The eye muscles are used to looking at screens or even books at a closer distance than looking long distance, like the board in the classroom. The problem is, our children don’t realise or know any different if the words on the page become fuzzy when reading or they can’t see what is written on the board properly. When my son wouldn’t read for any longer than 10 minutes at a time, it wasn’t just because he didn’t enjoy reading, his eyes were tired and he was struggling to see the words on the page. A simple eye test revealed he needed glasses for reading and while on the iPad as to reduce the strain on his eyes. He has also had a special coating on his glasses to filter out the HEV light while working on his iPad at school and reading at home.

Another simple test is a hearing test. The one thing I notice early on with students are those who are mouth breathers and generally sound like they have blocked noses. Linked with that can be speech difficulties because they may have had numerous ear infections growing up as babes and blocked ears, resulting in not hearing sounds correctly and so on. When you ask parents about past ear infections, do they snore? Have they had grommets? Have they suffered from bouts of tonsillitis? Those questions generally open up a dialogue to explore different avenues and pin point the issues.

What happens when both of those tests come back normal? That is the time we sit down, have a discussion and put an individual plan in place. This is an opportunity for parents to discuss such things as family history with learning difficulties or behaviour, and any other information that might be useful (such as nutrition, sleeping arrangements and lifestyle). This can be a difficult conversation with parents who may not want to open up for various reasons and needs to be respected. I always use this discussion to remind parents that if we work together and support each other, we have the best possible chance of helping their child be the best that they can be. That is the one thing I can guarantee, we all want for our children!

Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.

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