Around 300 persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) in Valenzuela City received free eyesight screening and physical fitness tests from volunteer clinicians and medical science students, yesterday April 29 at the Valenzuela City Astrodome.
Organized by sports and humanitarian organization Special Olympics Philippines, with support from Lions Club International District 301 D1 and the City Social Welfare and Development Office of Valenzuela City, Opening Eyes brought together twenty-two volunteer optometrists and 22 optometry students from Centro Escolar University-Mendiola to examine the eyes of 355 children, adults and the elderly with intellectual disabilities. Among the volunteer clinicians was Dr. Susan Danberg, Global Clinical Director of Special Olympics.
Free prescriptions were also reserved for those with refractive errors, to be claimed three weeks after.
On the other hand, 61 students of Physical Therapy from Emilio Aguinaldo College and the University of the Philippines, Manila led the beneficiaries through Fun Fitness, a series of physical fitness tests.
Special Olympics is known for its sports competition among PWIDs. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former US president John F. Kennedy, Special Olympics has presence in more than 170 countries and is run by more than 805,000 volunteers.
Clinical Director of Special Olympics Philippines Dr. Carmen Dichoso said it is important that caregivers take their intellectually disabled charges to regular medical checkups as many PWIDs, especially the non-verbal ones, or those who are unable to speak meaningfully, cannot fully articulate their needs.
Such was the case of Angela Sibug, 13, a PWID from Baranggay Dalandandan. A paraplegic since birth and a non-verbal, Sibug came to the screening on an infant’s stroller pushed by an elder sister.
Sibug’s elder sister Mary Grace, 23, said that she would often observe Sibug sitting very close to the television set
“Kahit sinasabihan na naming lumayo sa TV, lapit pa rin nang lapit,” Mary Grace said.
Had Mary Grace not taken Sibug to the Monday screening, she wouldn’t have known that her younger sister has an eye test grade of 20/800. Sibug is legally blind.
A legally blind person is one who has an eye test grade of 20/200 or worse.
Opening Eyes and Fun Fitness is two of the seven free health screenings Special Olympics provides to PWIDS in its constituent countries under its Healthy Athletes Program. The other health screenings are: Special Smiles (dentistry), Healthy Hearing ( audiology), Fit Feet (podiatry) Health Promotion (better health and well-being), and MedFest (sports physical exam).
According to Dr. Danberg, there is a lack of medical practitioners specializing in PWID health. “Even among the medical community, the common attitude is that PWIDs are a hopeless case,” she said. Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes Program addresses this need.