This year, as it has done for the past 6 years, the Rotary Club of Noble Park Dingley conducted hearing and sight tests for kindergarten, Prep and Grade 1 students at one of our local schools – Kingswood Primary. Problems with hearing and vision sometimes go unnoticed and the sooner they are detected, the sooner the child can have the necessary corrective treatment to enable full participation in the classroom.
The Club does the tests with the generous assistance of the University of Melbourne Audiology and Optometry final year students and their supervisors with the help of the Principal of the school where the testing occurs. So far three different Primary schools and an Early Learning Centre have been the sites of tests.
Initially the University nominates a Saturday for the event and our Rotary Club contacts a local school to see if they are interested in hosting the testing. The school then contacts parents of Foundation (Prep) and Grade 1 students as well as the feeder Kindergartens in the area to attend the testing day. Appointment times are made.
On the day of testing, we set up a registration table and a waiting area. The University students set up the classrooms used for testing and the Staffroom is used as a gathering area for everyone involved. The appointments are staggered to avoid too much waiting and sometimes the parents arrive with another sibling in tow – “Can this one be tested too?” We can usually fit them in if the child is between the ages of 3 and 9 years. After the testing the results are checked by the Consultant Supervisor and the parent is given a letter with the result – either all OK or a suggestion to seek a referral for further testing. As the University students don’t have access to hi-tech equipment whilst at the school, it is stressed that this is only a preliminary test.
The demographic of each venue is quite different, and both the students and Rotarians gain skills in accessing interpreting services and dealing with sometimes difficult children, as well as Dads who don’t know their child’s birth date!
Our Club provides lunch for the students and supervisors and the teacher (often the Principal) who is on site for the day. This year there were 40 students tested. The results were quite confronting. 50% of children were referred for further sight testing and 10% for auditory testing. In previous years when we just organised auditory tests, there were often 25 – 30% referred to. The past two years since we have also been conducting vision tests many children have been referred for more comprehensive vision testing. We wonder if this is a result of early use of screens! The supervisors assured us that most of the referrals are for minor matters, but the Club knows that if just one child is set for a better start to education, then it is a very worthwhile project.