This was a tip I sent around to the HCOS community in November of 2010.
This month's tip is that in the public system, all Kindergarten children are screened in the area of vision and hearing. I happen to have a homeschooling niece who is in Kindergarten this year and (with her parents consent) made an appointment and took her to the local public health clinic to arrange for these screens, to see what was involved. The only cost involved was a hot chocolate with whip cream, a visit to the local library afterwards and the promise to not use the word "appointment" (which, understandably, makes her nervous).
The screening was painless, quick (maybe 15 minutes all told) and tested her ability to use both eyes together as well as checking the eye itself for vision disorders, such as refractive errors, amblyopia and strabismus. It is not a diagnostic test and doesn't replace going to an eye doctor. The hearing test also was a screen, checking to see if there were any concerns with the child in the "conversational" hearing range - you might pick up on concerns in this area through the mispronunciations of various sounds in a child's regular speech.
The Learning Services Department is seeing many students with both minor and major learning challenges that are related to vision and hearing. One of the things we are suggesting is that parents take their child to have an eye exam and a hearing test to rule out any physical concerns. Screenings for all children in Kindergarden is a good place to start. Even for older children, yearly eye exams are free, as are auditory tests. I've attached a list of public health auditory clinics in BC, in case you are wondering where there is one near you. These screenings or assessments may be good tools to understand how your child is hearing or seeing, which are things we often can't understand through other means.
You may want to skip the screening and simply go to the optometrist and audiologist for a more in-depth look, particularly if you have any concerns about your child's learning. When you do go to see an optometrist, ask them to please check how your child's eye's are working together, what we call their "tracking" - the eyes ability to follow an object and focus on it. Visit http://www.visionandlearning.org/whatisvision08.html to find out more about the role of vision in learning.
If you do find you have concerns, particularly around vision/reading or hearing/speech/spelling issues, feel free to put in a referral to the LS department. We have free at-home resources and curriculums for speech concerns and are developing lots of at-home ideas for vision therapy, in consultation with an experienced vision therapist. For more information, (and a referral form) the link the the LS web page is: http://www.onlineschool.ca/special_education/learning_services.php.