Canandaigua, N.Y. —
Anna Orcutt thought the smiling face and the blinking red lights were amusing and so did her friends. The five-year-old was one of a number of children at St. Mary’s School last week who looked into the computer face of the state-of-the-art device being used by members of the local club of Lions International to screen young children for vision problems.
“She thought it was fun,” said Anna’s mother, Jennifer Orcutt, a registered nurse at Thompson Health.
More than 400 children of preschool or kindergarten age in the Canandaigua area will benefit this month from the project that pinpoints troubles ranging from congenital cataracts to amblyipia (lazy eye).
Jennifer Orcutt said the screening, offered at no cost, ensures more children get checked for potential vision problems before they become more serious.
“Many visual conditions must be detected early if they are to be successfully treated,” said Corning optometrist, Dr. Ed Cordes, a former international director for Lions Clubs International.
The Canandaigua Lions Club is spearheading this month’s project, called “Lions March for Vision.” It fits a main goal of the Lions International service organization, to decrease childhood blindness through early detection and treatment of the most common vision disorders.
St. Mary’s principal, Ann Marie Deutsch, said vision problems surface at an early age but can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed.
“The school environment is different than at home,” she said. It requires seeing clearly from more of a distance, seeing well in different types of lighting and other factors.
St. Mary’s is one of several schools and preschools, including Care-A-Lot in Farmington and the child care center at Bristol Mountain, where Lions Club members are screening children using the portable, computerized machine with scanning device that provides immediate results. While the screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor, it does alert parents and teachers when a child needs a problem addressed.
Richard Ernst of Canandaigua, district governor for Lions clubs in the 10-county Finger Lakes region, said about 5 percent of the children screened so far needed referrals. “This allows parents to get their children to an ophthalmologist before the age of six and very possibly cure a problem before it becomes too late.”
Cordes said amblyopia, or “lazy eye” is one of those conditions that must be detected and treated before age six to have the most potential for improvement. “Quality vision screenings can also detect some conditions such as unequal pupil size which may be an indication of a serious systemic disorder.” The PediaVision screener being used in the project allows “one of the most accurate methods available to detect refractive error, eye misalignment, unequal pupils, congenital cataracts, and ptosis (lid droop),” he said.
Ernst said parents sign a permission slip to have their child screened.
For children needing referrals, Lions Club does refer to a specific eye examination center, he said.
“We will provide a print-out of the scan to the parent for them to take to their own eye-care professional.” For families who can’t afford the eye-care professional, “in some cases, if we are notified,” said Ernst, “we can provide assistance directly or through the Ontario Children’s Foundation. Assistance is based on need and the child must reside in Ontario Country.