CLINTONVILLE – The Clintonville Lions have as a mission to improve the detection of vision problems among children, especially the very young.
Since last spring, the club has been providing free vision screenings to the public and private schools and to daycares in the Clintonville community.
Most recently it held a screening for the Play and Learn Preschool. Earlier in December the club screened students at Dellwood Early Learning Center and Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School. In September it held screenings at St. Martin Lutheran School.
Last spring it, along with the Bear Creek Lions Club, screened students at St. Rose/St. Mary School.
Plans call for the club to screen Clintonville Middle School fourth and eighth graders in January or February. It will also be contacting other Clintonville daycares to arrange for screenings.
A mission of the more than 1.35 million Lions worldwide is to help with the detecting of vision problems and assisting individuals, as needed, in getting the services of an eye care professional and the purchase of any required glasses. Last year all the Lions clubs of northeast Wisconsin furthered this mission by joining forces and partnering with Lions Clubs International to purchase ten Spot vision screening cameras. The cost of each camera was about $8,000.
The Spot camera is a portable device that can quickly, easily, and accurately detect vision problems. It provides a much more compressive screening than the Snellen Eye Chart that has been used for years for vision screening.
“The Snellen only measures visual acuity — how “sharply” we see letters from 20 feet away — and does not address the many other important aspects of vision and how we use our eyes,” said Lenard Snowden, vision screening coordinator for the Clintonville Lions.
He added, “The Spot camera represents a breakthrough update to visions screening. It provides a much more compressive screening for those aspects of vision needed to read, copy, write, and to work on a computer.
Snowden stated that experts say that roughly 80 percent of what a child learns in school is information that is presented visually.
“A child with an undetected or untreated vision problem is more likely to develop social or emotional problems and fall behind in academic achievement,” he said. “Experts say 50 percent of behavior problems in schools are due to vision issues.
Snowden said that the Spot camera is a very sophisticated screening device. He said it uses low level infrared light to take 23 camera shots of the eyes in one second or less.
“Sophisticated software in the camera analyzes the light reflected from each retina, and can immediately determine if the vision is “in range” or “out of range” for various vision issues,” he said.
The vision issues the camera screens for include: refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, unequal power), astigmatism (irregular shape of the cornea, eye, or curvature of the lens), amblyopic (lazy eye), strabismus (cross eyes), and a comparative analysis for unequal refractive power (anisometropia), and unequal pupil size (anisocoria).
Parents receive a comprehensive single page printout of their child’s screening results. If the child is determined to be “out of range” in one or more areas, the parents are advised to get a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist as soon as possible.
“Parents are also advised that the screening does not replace a complete and comprehensive eye examination by an eye doctor,” Snowden said. “Parents are also advised that the camera can not detect all diseases or conditions.”
Snowden said that the use of the Spot camera by Lions and others is endorsed around the country and world by ophthalmologists and optometrists.
When asked how the Spot camera is used for screening, he said that the child looks into the front of the camera that is positioned exactly three feet away, focusing their vision on its blinking red, amber, and blue lights. He said the camera automatically takes the series of pictures. The whole process is non-invasive and the child feels nothing.
“While anyone from age six months and above can be screened with the Spot camera,” Snowden said, “it is most useful in screening young children. It is especially useful to screen the very young, those who are non-verbal, and those who have learning, behavioral, or developmental disabilities.”
Snowden cited a statistic from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Approximately only fifteen percent of all preschool children have had a comprehensive eye exam, and that fewer than twenty-two percent have, up to now, received any type of vision screening.
“Most young children who have a vision problem just think that is the way everyone sees. The sooner a visions problem can be detected the more likely it can be successfully corrected or treated so that it is less likely to become a life-long disability,” Snowden said.
It took twenty years to do research and development before the Spot camera first was manufactured in October of 2011.
“We first learned of the camera in the spring of 2012,” Snowden said, “and members of our club, and the other clubs in northeast Wisconsin, quickly became excited for what it could do for the youth in our communities. The clubs committed themselves to raising one half of the funds needed to purchase the ten cameras and necessary accessories now in use in this part of the state. A matching grant from Lions Clubs International provided the other half of the funds needed.
Other Lions Clubs in the area providing free vision screening with the Spot camera include Bear Creek, Marion, Tigerton, Gresham, Shawano, New London, Manawa, lola, Weyauwega, and Waupaca.