Lions Club eye testing helps children in Pekin schools
Iowa KidSight is a joint project of the Lions Clubs of Iowa and the University of Iowa, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
The program is dedicated to early detection and treatment of vision problems in Iowa’s young children through screening and public education. The target population is 6-48 months of age.
Richland and Packwood Lions Clubs helped screened 53 children at Pekin Community Schools Preschool and Daycare Nov. 19.
“We’ve been doing this eight or nine years,” said Chad Reed, a member of Richland Lions Club. “I’m the photographer.”
Lions Club volunteers throughout Iowa have been trained to organize and conduct this free, non-invasive, vision-screening session in local communities.
The screening involves taking photos of a child’s eyes with a special PhotoScreener camera. The resulting image looks like a Polaroid shot.
“We can take up to six photos, and each one takes a double picture, so each child’s eyes are on one photo twice,” said Reed. “When looking at the photo, you see four eyes.”
The photos are sent to the University of Iowa, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences for interpretation by trained staff. Results of the screenings are shared with the families of the child. Follow-up with any problems detected is suggested and names of eye doctors in the area are forwarded to the family.
“Sam Ritchie, a retired Pekin school administrator, is our organizer,” said Reed. “He sets up the day and times with the schools. When we do this, anyone can bring their child of the target age in for screening, we just need the paperwork filled out.
“We mostly hold screenings at daycares and preschools and parents have already filled out the consent forms.”
Reed said children can be screened each year if they are within the targeted age range.
“When kids reach kindergarten, we don’t screen them,” said Reed.
He enjoys taking part in this community service that can help save sight.
“Some of the youngsters are squirmy and get distracted by all the people in the room,” he said. “The rooms is dark, and adults the child doesn’t know are aiming a camera at them, so a few young ones get a little scared, but there are familiar school personnel to help.
“It gets a little trying if one of the kids can’t sit still enough for the photo and 50 more kids are still waiting in line,” said Reed. “But it’s all worth it and can be fun.”
Lions Clubs adopt KidSight as a community service project. Ever since the challenge from Helen Keller to the Lions to help with vision issues, vision concerns have been a major project in Lions Clubs.
“It’s a great program,” said Ritchie. “Kids don’t fight it like they might going to an eye doctor and having instruments close to their eyes. And it only takes a second. If you get the right second. Chad, our photographer, is very good about that. He gets the majority on the first take.”
Ritchie said the two Lions Clubs hold a screening at Pekin Schools about once a year.
“We usually have three or four referrals and at least a couple of the children will need glasses,” he said. “This is such a great program to catch vision problems early so kids can have a smoother transition into school.”
The screenings can detect high far-sightedness, near-sightedness, differences in refractive errors, astigmatism, cataracts and muscle imbalances. If these conditions are not identified and treated early in childhood, they can lead to vision loss in an eye, Amblyopia.
Amblyopia, when one eye develops good vision while the other does not, is the most common vision problem in preschool-aged children, accordiång to the University of Iowa KidSight website.
The instant photos of a child’s eyes can detect eye problems in children too young to communicate possible vision problems.
The goals of Iowa KidSight are:
• Objectively screen vision in infants and young children throughout all of Iowa’s 99 counties at no cost.
• Educate the public about the risk of undetected vision loss.
• Identify ways to sustain vision-screening programs of this type.
Any young child living in Iowa is eligible for the service. The screenings are in local communities throughout the state where Lions Clubs volunteers are trained.
A parent or guardian is required to complete a consent form and a prescreening form prior to being screened.
According to the Iowa KidSight website, data through Sept. 2011 show children in 448 Iowa towns have been screened.
The program began modestly, screening 394 Iowa children from May to December 2000.
The 2011 data shows 33,21 Iowa children screened in the state in 2011.
Since 2000, a total of 231,055 children have been screened by Lions Clubs volunteers through 2011 and 10,421 Iowa children have been referred for further vision screenings.