Award winning Warrenpoint optician addresses MLAs

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Monday, December 17th, 2012
Award winning optician Michael Gilsenan has this week addressed MLAs and education professionals at an event in Stormont to highlight the link between children’s vision and under-performance in school. The event was hosted by Sean Rodgers MLA, SDLP Education Spokesman. The presentation was part of a series of work Michael Gilsenan (Lee Opticians) has undertaken to highlight the key role vision plays in education and lobby to improve screening in schools. Michael, the first optician in NI to gain a School Vision Diploma, is also a specialist in treating visual dyslexia and has gathered a significant body of research in the field of children’s eye care. He is currently involved in a number of research projects including a study with Kingston University linking prescribed tinted lenses to coordination and sporting performance. Speaking to Newry Times, Michael said: “Vision screening is carried out in school when children are in primary one, aged four and subsequently 53% of children never attend their free annual eye check. “An estimated 50% of children have visual dysfunctions which will cause under-performance in school – issues that should be picked up easily during a free visit to an optometrist. I see children on a daily basis in my practice which supports this fact. He added, “In many cases, a number of years will have passed while parents and educationalists will focus on tuition or other interventions before they consider having the child’s eyes tested. I believe vision should be the first thing assessed and that is one issue I which to highlight today.” During the event South Down MLA Sean Rogers offered his continued commitment to ensure the issue of screening in schools is properly addressed. Rogers stated, “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to sponsor this important event. The information presented by Michael Gilsenan certainly warrants further investigation and could potentially lead to significant changes in the way we monitor school children’s eyesight.” Also speaking at the event, St Clare’s Convent Primary School (Newry) Principal Michelle Monaghan said, “Having worked with Michael before, I have witnessed at first-hand the dramatic number of children trying to access the curriculum with an undiagnosed visual issue and the detrimental effect that has had. “We asked Michael to work with a group of children in primary 5 who despite ability, a number of interventions and excellent teaching, continued to struggle in class. “Following testing, we discovered a high number were long sighted and others required visual support and eye exercises – a significant number have shown dramatic improvements in scores attained since these visual issues were identified and treated appropriately.” In his concluding remarks Michael asked for full party support in raising awareness of the importance of annual eye checks and better screening in schools. Michael added, “I am also asking MLAs to support a pilot study so I can demonstrate to them the real cost of undiagnosed vision issues for a child who can’t reach their full potential which can form the basis of future policy making in relation to eye screening for school age children.”
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