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Spot vision screenings help hundreds of local, area children
Holly Milligan, left, Sunflower Diversified Services physical therapist, screens Wylder Wilkinson’s vision, with the help of his mom, McKinley, a Sunflower early childhood special education teacher. Wylder attends Sunflower’s Incredible Years Preschool.

While families compile their to-do lists for the beginning of the school year, they might want to include vision screening for their children.

August is Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month, which is a good time to raise awareness about vision screens at Sunflower’s Early Education Center (EEC) or its community partners, said Heather Quillin, children’s services coordinator at Sunflower Diversified Services.

“We have been able to identify a number of issues with our vision screenings,” Quillin said. “Many children have obtained glasses or received more intensive vision care because parents took advantage of early screenings.

“We do not interpret the readings from the screens. Instead, we refer children to their optometrist or ophthalmologist.”

The EEC uses a Spot vision screener for children as early as 6 months old. The free screens can detect astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness and differences between the two eyes. A “gaze analysis” helps determine eye misalignment, lazy eye and pupil size abnormalities.

“The screen can tell us if a child’s eyes are not working equally together or if one eye is stronger than the other,” Quillin commented.

From January 2015 to June of this year, Sunflower screened 411 children; 53 have been referred for follow-ups with optometrists and ophthalmologists.

These numbers do not include the many screens by Sunflower’s community partners such as school districts, Lions Clubs and Head Start. The 10th Street Eyecare Center also has used the equipment.

“Sunflower tries to offer community screenings throughout our five-county service area at least twice a year for children birth to age 3,” Quillin said. “We strongly encourage families to take advantage of this free opportunity.

“We can also visit families’ homes at any time to complete a developmental screening or evaluation.”

The local Lions Clubs purchased the first Spot screener for the EEC; the Damon Foundation bought the second.

Then, because of the high demand, the Damon Foundation purchased a third screener and USD 428 bought another. The Golden Belt Community Foundation and Farmers Bank & Trust also made donations to help with the costs.

“Our community is fortunate to have four screeners available,” Quillin said. “We are so grateful for the community’s support in helping us obtain this state-of-the-art equipment. It allows us to better identify vision problems early and helps so many children get the support they need.”

Two screeners are housed at the EEC. One is for internal use only, while a second one may be checked out for use elsewhere.

“Those who want to check out a device must be trained,” Quillin noted. “However, the training takes only about 10 minutes.”

For more information and/or to schedule a brief training session, contact the EEC by calling 620-792-4087.

Quillin offered a couple of statistics that illustrate the importance of vision screening: approximately one in 20 children under the age of 5 have vision problems; and 80 percent of a children’s learning is through their eyes.

“In addition, children rarely complain of vision problems,” Quillin added. “They think everyone sees the world in the same way they do. This just adds to the importance of why early vision screenings are so critical.”

Sunflower’s EEC, which is part of the tiny-k network in Kansas, serves children from birth to age 3 in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. Its services are free to families.

We strongly encourage families to take advantage of this free opportunity. We can also visit families’ homes at any time to complete a developmental screening or evaluation.
Heather Quillin, children’s services coordinator at Sunflower Diversified Services