Charlotte organization aims to get children vision screenings before age 6

Vision screenings for kids under 6

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - According to educational experts, 80 percent of learning is visual. So, if children can’t see well, they can’t learn well. Yet - most children don’t have a vision screening until they have problems learning or paying attention in school. That’s why a local chapter of the Lions, a national service organization, is working get children screened early.

“Let’s make sure these kids aren’t gonna have problems in the future by screening them early,” said Lion David Shimberg. The SouthPark Lions’ member reached out to me after seeing previous stories I’ve done about eye health. They offer to give vision screenings to children at mostly church-based preschools across Mecklenburg County. It’s free to both schools and parents. Shimberg invited WBTV to their most recent screening at Prosperity Presbyterian Church Preschool in Northeast Charlotte on Tuesday.

It’s quick, easy, painless and the kids loved it. Their Lions KidSight USA program works to get kids vision problems detected early - because they risk becoming permanent by age seven. Shimberg says the most common eye problem they see among children is amblyopia - more commonly known as lazy eye. It affects five percent of kids ages six months to seven years. “If caught before age of seven- you’ve got a good chance of correcting the problem with treatment, eye glasses, patching of the of the good eye, etc. to strengthen the weak eye,” he said.

Shimberg also recalled the response they had from kids at a different preschool when they returned a year later. “The second year we went back in, we had several kids come back to us proudly showing us their new glasses,” he said. “So parents have been pretty appreciative of it.”

The program is made possible through a grant from Novant Health. The Lions received $7,000 to buy the screening instrument needed. While Novant provided the $7,000 grant that paid for the screening system, training on system use was provided by Plusoptix, the company that developed the screening technology and device.

By screening early - Shimberg also says it keeps children from being pegged as having a behavioral problem or learning disability. “You get children in school who are acting out,” he said. “They're not paying attention, they're not doing their work. And again it's human nature when you've got a class of 30 or 40 kids, to pigeon-hole that kid all too often. And, if we can identify the problem as being something which is correctable, not just the kid is ADHD or learning disabled, he needs glasses or he needs optical treatment of some sort.”

Consider this seven to 15 percent of children screen -- that's nearly 4 million -- will be referred for a follow-up exam by an eye care professional. Each child screened through LionsKidSight gets paperwork with the results: it will not that the child either passed the screening or will say “referral” which instructs parents to see an eye doctor who can then interpret the results and get the child the proper treatment.

For more information about the program, contact the Lions by emailing them at southparklions@gmail.com.

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