Foundation provides free vision, hearing tests to youth from low-income families

Licensed Optician for TFSS Monia Janamian fits a new pair of glasses on a grade 5 student. Joanna Iossifidis/Global News

TORONTO– Imagine for a moment if your child couldn’t read the chalkboard or hear their teacher? And to make matters worse, what if you couldn’t afford to do anything about it? The Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS) provides free vision and hearing screening to children from grades 5 to 7, at inner city schools.

For some grade 5 students at George Webster Elementary School in East York, the free in-school vision screening has been their first eye exam.

“Toronto Foundation for Student Success exists to support some of our most vulnerable students so they’re ready and able to learn in the classroom,” said Catherine Parsonage, executive director for TFSS.

The Gift of Sight and Sound program serves 150 schools across the city. The program offers follow up in-school clinic appointments with optometrists and physicians.

Parsonage said research from the TFSS Gift of Sight and Sound pilot project showed that 15 per cent of all children that live in lower-income families need vision correction. The need for this correction goes undetected until children reach the age of 11 or 12, or sometimes well into their teen years.

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“In addition to screen eyes, we check hearing,” said Parsonage. “Every year we found about five to eight children that have sensorineural deafness. And an earlier diagnosis means an earlier treatment.”

Around 3,000 pairs of glasses are distributed annually to students in need. Clearly Contacts provides an array of frames for students to choose from, all without cost.

“The children love the glasses,” said Kimberley Pividor, Principal at George Webster Elementary School. “As soon as they get their glasses on they’re so excited and talking about it in the hallways.”

Pividor added she notices an increase in students confidence and willingness to take risks when they feel prepared.

“The Gift of Sight and Sound provides us the opportunity to support our students so they can see and hear effectively in class, so they can achieve their best academically,” said Pividor.

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