Students at Sumner Elementary were excited last week when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by to see them during their school eye exams.
Part of the District’s effort to expand vision care, the event at Sumner provided 88 students with comprehensive eye exams, up to and including the dilation of pupils. Those determined to need corrective lenses were able to select the frames of their choice and get their glasses ordered on the spot.
“There are a lot of factors that determine how a child performs in school, and one of them is vision,” said Sumner principal Delores Robinson. “This opportunity was very much needed at our school to help our students succeed.”
According to Robinson, the arrival of Mayor Emanuel left her students star-struck and speechless.
“Even our most vocal students could barely manage a word,” she said. “They couldn’t believe that the mayor had actually come to their school. He was very kind to the children, and very complimentary of the staff as well, which meant a lot to us.”
With help from the Mayor and the city, CPS recently expanded its vision examination program to meet the needs of more students. In partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the District has provided more than 30,000 students with a visit to an optometrist this year, and has arranged for them to receive eyeglasses when necessary. This program is on track to serve 45,000 students by the end of the year.
“Good vision is critical for the academic success of our children,” said Dr. Stephanie Whyte, Chief Health Officer for CPS. “Research shows that 80 percent of what a child learns is processed visually.”
Estimates indicate that nearly 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems, with only one-third of all children having undergone a vision screening prior to entering school. This number goes down considerably for minority and low-income students and for the uninsured.
Because of the strong correlation between vision and learning, Illinois teachers fought hard to pass legislation requiring every student to undergo a comprehensive eye exam before entering school full time. Illinois is one of only a handful of states to have enacted such a law.
“Comprehensive eye exams are a means to removing health-related barriers to learning,” said Dr. Whyte. “The earlier a vision problem is diagnosed and treated, the less the potential negative impact on the child’s development and academic performance.”
(Photo By: Brooke Collins)