By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Vision problems can result in a number of issues for children, but a local organization is learning how to spot trouble with a special camera.
Members of the Opportunities Inc. Head Start staff will be the first in the state trained to use a Spot camera, made by Pediavision, for vision screening for youths ages 5 and under. The initial training will be Monday at The Non-Profit Center, with a class of 10 Head Start staff members. Renee Hoover, Smart Start coordinator at Community Development Support Association, said when staff members complete the training, screeners will be able to screen children 5 years old and up with the state-certified chart.
They also will learn how to look for signs and symptoms of vision problems and use of the Spot camera for 4-year-olds and under. Screeners who successfully complete the training will be certified for three years, Hoover said.
The camera is computerized technology allowing children to be screened as young as 6 months old up through adults, said Anita Schlaht, of Prevent Blindness Oklahoma. The technology checks alignment of the eyes, nearsightedness and farsightedness. The shape of the eye may indicate astigmatism, Schlaht said.
The technology in the Spot camera checks for the size of the pupil, which could determine whether one is bigger than the other, which could indicate a tumor. Schlaht said children have been discovered with tumors and cataracts through use of the camera.
Hoover said the project is designed — with the use of the Spot camera — to provide accurate vision screenings for children in northwest Oklahoma and counties served by Opportunities Inc. Head Start and CDSA. The camera is a much more accurate screening tool, she said. The camera will be used in Head Start classrooms and will be made available to home visitation programs, such as Children First and Parents as Teachers and home-based child care programs, Hoover said.
Enid Early Childhood Director Dianne Juhnke said they are purchasing the camera with a grant and collaborating with Head Start. The grant is from the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. It was issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Hoover said. The cost of the camera is $8,000.
“We’re training Head Start staff to provide screening for all Head Start children. It’s for all areas served by Opportunities Inc., which is basically northwest Oklahoma,” Juhnke said.
There are no other programs like this one in the state, although there are vision screening facilities, she said. The focus is ensuring children don’t have undetected vision problems, Juhnke said.
“With all the focus on third-grade reading and school readiness, we certainly know that vision is a very important part of that. If children can’t see well, they won’t be able to read,” Juhnke said.
Studies show there is a high number of instances of undiagnosed astigmatism in young children, she said.
The camera gives a printout and identifies vision problems a child may have. Parents can take the child to an eye-care professional for testing. Prevent Blindness Oklahoma will help with some costs, Juhnke said. She said they became aware of the program at a conference where Prevent Blindness Oklahoma staff spoke about childhood vision problems.
Juhnke and Hoover began talking with Head Start representatives, about how young children should have vision screenings.
“There have been some instances during home visitations we wished we had the opportunity to do more screening to see if there is a problem,” Juhnke said. “We began reading more about undetected vision problems in children and all the home visitation programs.”
They began looking for a source of funding and discovered the federal grant. Childhood vision is a subject that often has been overlooked in the past, Juhnke said.
“We thought it was a great way to ensure children have access to screening, so they can discover if they have (a problem) and have a professional check, before they go to school,” Juhnke said. “It can make a tremendous difference in a child’s life.”
She said vision problems may be undetected, but are exhibited through a number of behaviors. A child may appear not to be interested in books or play on certain playground equipment.