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Hearing, Vision and Scoliosis Screening at School

Many children are not diagnosed with hearing or vision problems, or scoliosis of the spine, until they participate in screenings at school. These screenings do not take the place of regular medical check ups but have become very important for children who struggle with challenges they have come to take for granted.

Testing is often done under the supervision of a school nurse who is put in charge of two or more schools due to staffing decisions or budget problems. Some schools may rely on volunteers who have worked too long at one time and forget their training or misread results children who have learned to compensate for their difficulties hearing or seeing.

Some children with special needs included in mainstream classrooms show symptoms during screenings that were missed in segregated classrooms or that were noted but attributed to their already diagnosed disability. Scoliosis often develops during childhood or adolescence, with no known cause. Hearing or vision problems may develop from one year to the next, and may not be suspected before a screening.

Children with undiagnosed hearing or vision problems may have developed classroom behavior that is disruptive or distracting. When a child shows symptoms of problems during school screenings, a note is usually sent home to families advising them to have their child seen by a professional.

If the note makes it to a parent's hand, it may not be taken seriously if the child compensates well. If a child has a history of behavior problems, being fidgety, or inattentive, families may think that the child was just not paying attention during the screening.

Teachers and other staff may assume the same. Many districts have a policy of placing a child at the front of a classroom when hearing or vision problems are suspected. This might be seen as a punishment by a child who does not like change or is moved away from friends.

They may report the results of a doctor's visit inaccurately to save themselves the trouble of these changes, or to maintain their previous self image, or to deny their challenges to classmates.

When a child is identified during a screening as possibly having a problem, and if the note reaches a parent, and the child is seen by a doctor, and a diagnosis confirmed, it's important that some accomodations and supports are provided.

Children may find it difficult to accept or get used to using eyeglasses or hearing aids, and may have problems losing or damaging them, so insurance is a good investment. Hearing aid batteries are dangerous, so small children must not have access to them.

Scoliosis is too common in children and youth to ignore. Undiagnosed or untreated, it can progress and cause difficulties later in life. Sometimes medical professionals overlook scoliosis or underemphasize possible difficulties.

Advocating for our children's health needs is a challenge that calls for all the help we can get. School screenings are just one tool that can help alert us to unsuspected or recently developed special needs.

We often spend time worrying about why we did not suspect and act upon symptoms months or years before our children are diagnosed with vision, hearing, or spine problems, and rarely congratulate ourselves for the efforts we make after a condition is diagnosed. It's a good thing we are tough, and have developed a deep and abiding sense of humor.

Browse at your local bookstore, public library or online booksellers like Amazon.com for books for mainstream classmates and students with special needs, like Baby Duck and the Bad Eyeglasses by Amy Hest.

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