Local Lions and Lioness clubs are offering a new type of vision screening.
The Spot Vision Camera is quicker, more efficient, and provides more information than the previous chart methods of vision screening.
“Our Lion and Lioness clubs have been conducting vision screenings in the Waupaca school system for years, but having this new camera will not only increase the accuracy of what we are doing, it will also give us the chance to screen children at a much younger age,” said Todd Mallasch, president of the Waupaca Lions Club.
“Detecting and correcting vision problems can dramatically change a child’s life,” he said. “So the more kids we are able to screen, the more help we will be to our community.”
“The initial focus is on kindergarten and preschoolers,” said Lion Mike Martin, district vision screening coordinator.
The new device will be used to screen children in the Clintonville area during the week of March 24-28, and at the Iola Health Fair on April 12. These events will be the first time the camera is used in Waupaca County.
Screening the vision of children by using charts was not always effective, Martin explained. Communication and attention spans often created obstacles for screeners.
“Many kids don’t even realize they have a vision problem, and reading an eye chart can be confusing for very young children,” Mallasch said. “Having this camera gives us the opportunity to more accurately detect vision problems, and recommend they see an eye doctor for a full eye examination.”
“Little kids think what they see is what they should see,” Martin said. “They have no point of reference, and parents have no way of knowing that their child isn’t seeing everything.”
Without screenings, poor vision may not be detected unless a child complains of headaches or there is a problem at school, he noted. By then, it could be too late to correct a disorder such as lazy eye (Ambliopia).
“With this type of screening, we can pick up many different eye problems that are beginning to develop,” Martin said. “All we do is to take a picture of the child’s eyes. There are no questions for the child to answer.”
The entire process requires each child to sit still for only a few seconds. The screener merely turns on the camera and points it at the child, who sits about four feet away.
The camera automatically focuses and takes an instant electronic-capture photograph of the child’s eyes to determine the presence of six eye disorders.
The results are fed into a computer for the school/daycare to share with each child’s parents.
The camera marks each screening as “all measurements within range” or “complete eye exam recommended.”
“All we do is the screening; we do not diagnose,” said Lowell Easley, secretary for the Clintonville Lions and vision screening coordinator for Region 5 Zone 2.
Prior to the free screenings, the school or daycare asks parents to sign a permission slip allowing their child to be vision screened.
“Most children under the age of 7 haven’t yet seen an eye doctor,” Easley said.
Area Lions and Lioness recently attended training sessions to learn how to operate the new camera.
“One has to be trained to operate it,” said Pat Leer, of the Iola Lioness. “The camera will be used only with parent permission. The Lions and Lioness will be operating this camera only with the support of the local school districts and daycares.”
“Our goal is to screen as many young children as possible, with our main focus on children between the ages of 1-6,” Mallasch said.
Early vision screening can have a life-changing effect for children.
When Martin first started using the Spot Vision Camera in 2012, one little girl in a daycare facility was detected as “out of range” in three different areas. When her parents took her for a complete eye exam, the ophthalmologist said she was 90 percent blind in her left eye.
The girl was treated for lazy eye, which affects about 5 percent of children. The condition can be corrected with medication or with the use of an eye patch that forces the bad eye to do more work. Lazy eye can only be corrected if caught in its early stages.
“If we had not caught it with the Spot Vision camera, by the time she was 10 there would have been nothing they could do for her,” Martin said.
In another case, a mother had chosen not to have her son go through the vision screening. She changed her mind at the last minute after noticing that the Lions provided the service at no cost.
Two days later, the little boy was having surgery to remove a tumor behind his eye.
“They managed to save 80 percent of his eyesight,” Martin said. “Hearing that kind of result is what got people really excited about this project.”
“This fits so well into Lionism,” he said.