Each year, students from the Michigan College of Optometry (MCO) volunteer at a vision screening as part of the Michigan Summer Special Olympics in Mt. Pleasant. The students are joined by almost 100 other volunteers including optometrists, members of the Michigan Affiliate of the American Foundation for Vision Awareness (AFVA), members of the Michigan Paraoptometric Association, Lions Club members, and optometric staff members and spouses.
Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and Olympic-style athletic competition for children and adults with mental retardation. Special Olympics gives its athletes continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of skills and friendship with their families, with other Special Olympics athletes and with the community.
Opening Eyes is part of the Special Olympics program called Healthy Athletes, based on the idea that good health promotes a positive, successful sport experience. Unfortunately, evidence shows that poor health care is a particular concern for the participants in Special Olympics - the health needs of persons with mental disabilities are too often overlooked.
Opening Eyes is designed to provide for the vision and eye health needs of athletes. Each participating athlete completes a comprehensive 15-step vision screening that takes from 40 minutes to an hour. The screenings are free, and prescription eyeglasses are provided at no cost to the athletes before the end of the Special Olympics weekend. Athletes competing in team handball and volleyball, as well as monocular athletes, receive free sport goggles.
In addition to helping provide vision care, MCO students have the opportunity to improve their skills working with special needs athletes. Students rotate through several stations, including lensometry (reading current spectacle prescriptions), checking athletes near and distance visual acuities, performing automated refraction to help determine if a prescription is needed, and doing tonometry, an eye pressure test to help screen for glaucoma.
Opening Eyes is sponsored by the Michigan Affiliate of AFVA and the Lions Club International Foundation.