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Lions KidSight: Early is the best time to catch a vision problem

Lions KidSight: Early is the best time to catch a vision problem

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PHOTO:  Emo Lion Joanne Ogden (right) shows Atikokan Teilor Sharbot and Dave and Faye McAllister the proper technique for using the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Scanner at North Star School on May 12.

The Lions KidSight program came to Atikokan last week, courtesy of the Emo & District Lions Club.

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“If you identify vision problems when children are between six months and six years old, you can really make a difference. Often at that age a temporary fix can correct the problem [for life],” says Lion Joanne Ogden.

Lions KidSight has been a big success in the United States. Using modern technology, in the form of hand-held screeners, volunteers can be easily trained to conduct basic eye tests on children.

The volunteers don’t diagnose or treat eye problems. The scanner takes a series of measurements of a child’s eye in just a few seconds, from a few feet away. These readings are recorded, and if they fall outside standard ranges, a report is sent home to parents with a recommendation that they take their child to an optometrist.

“We call that a referral,” said Ogden. She worked with Atikokan Lions Teilor Sharbot and Faye McAllister, and they visited North Star School, Mine Centre School, and Rainbow Day Care on May 12. Twenty-one of the 118 children they scanned were given a referral notice. (Children under 19 are covered for one visit to an optometrist per year.)

The measurements the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Scanner can measure six amblyopic risk factors in children as young as six months – near and farsightedness, astigmatism (blurred vision), anisometropia (unequal refractive power), strabismus (eye misalignment), and anisocoria (unequal pupil size).

All of the scanner technology is updated regularly, and the reading levels for referrals are reviewed by optometrists.

“It was a fascinating procedure,” said Atikokan Lion Faye McAllister. “The machine is so phenomenal. It was quick – it took just seconds – and to the kids it was just like getting their picture taken. The machine has coloured lights, so when we went to the day care, we were able to [easily scan] kids as young as 14 months.”

Ogden has learned the scanners have even saved lives. Sometimes the scanner can’t get a reading at all; these cases always get a referral notice. And in one case where a reading could not be taken, it turned out the problem was a tumour behind the eye. (The referral led the parents to bring the child to an optometrist, who detected the tumour.)

“That literally saved the child’s life,” said Ogden.

The Emo & District Club bought the scanner last year through the Lions District Foundation for Manitoba and NWO, and rolled out the KidSight program in late December. So far, over 500 children have been tested (75 have received referrals).

“We are looking into a similar system for testing hearing,” said Ogden.

She hopes to see the Kids EyeSight program expand to First Nations and Catholic schools in the 2018-18 school year. The Lions here did contact St. Pat’s School.

Ogden said she was “dragged kicking and screaming” into Lions in 2010, when the Emo club needed 25 registered members to get its charter restored. A nurse and a horse lover, she didn’t think she’d have much time for Lions.

But as the revived Emo & District club got its sea legs and became more and more effective, Ogden started to get interested. Lion training (members can take a variety of leadership and other programs) helped her realize just how big and active the movement is (“There are one point five million members, all of them just wanting to do something for their community.”)

Soon she was taking a leadership role , and today she is first vice district governor elect, which means that in 2018 she will serve as district governor for northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario.

Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference in the world – Lions don’t have that problem.

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