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Free custom glasses serve as learning aid for students

Optometrist Patti Brady fits Nation Morris, 6, with a pair of eyeglasses at Audubon Elementary on Thursday.  (Colin Mulvany)
Optometrist Patti Brady fits Nation Morris, 6, with a pair of eyeglasses at Audubon Elementary on Thursday. (Colin Mulvany)

Some Spokane elementary schoolchildren got a gift Thursday that many take for granted – good vision.

Prevent Blindness America and Essilor Laboratories of America teamed up to give 51 Audubon Elementary School students and 15 Holmes Elementary School students prescription eyeglasses.

Local opticians volunteered to screen every student at both schools to see if they needed eyeglasses, then volunteer optometrists examined the students to determine the prescriptions needed. The students picked out which frames they wanted and were fitted when their eyeglasses arrived.

“It helps me see better, far and up close,” said 12-year-old Dorina Sam, who was sporting her new red-colored frames. “Sometimes, when I’m reading, it gets clear then blurry again.”

For Sam, this was a big problem; she is an avid reader. Now, she can really enjoy her favorite genres – mystery and adventure – without straining to see.

Nandhi Harris, 10, said she is most excited to watch her teacher doing math and science. “And I don’t have to go up front and sit on the floor,” she said. “I can sit at my desk.”

Harris’ father, Willie Carter, told Harris she looked great when she tried on her new glasses.

Some parents might not have the resources to get their children glasses, said Audubon Principal Kimberly Stretch.

“It’s not a neglect issue that the kids don’t have glasses,” she said. “There are so many other factors. Sometimes it’s not knowing how or where (to get the glasses), or it’s a matter of economics.”

Stretch said above all she hopes the glasses will give the children greater quality of life, but she also hopes their improved vision will translate to improvement in the classroom.

“We hope to see some dramatic improvements in their ability to process visual information,” she said.

If children can’t see well, they may not enjoy activities such as reading, making learning more difficult, said optician Kathy Schultz. And, she added, their dislike of reading can continue through their lives, making early detection of vision problems crucial to lifelong education.

Schultz said poor eyesight can also hinder children’s development, such as their hand-eye coordination. Screeners can also identify other issues, such as lazy eye, so they can be properly treated.

“It can affect a lot of parts of their lives and ability to learn,” she said. “If they can’t see, they can’t learn,”

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