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Carrboro Lions Club donates vision screener to CHCCS

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A student enters Carrboro High School on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

In February, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools received a new screener to scan pre-K students early for eye and sight irregularities.

The Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener was donated by the Carrboro Lions Club on Feb. 8. The Carrboro Lions Club is a division of the Lions Clubs International, an organization dedicated to community service.

For decades, Lions Clubs International has long focused some of its work on sight — and specifically preventing blindness. That mission extends to the Carrboro Lions Club, Ron Wood, president of the organization, said.

“Our main goal is to help people with visually impaired disabilities,” Wood said.

Wood said the Carrboro Lions Club donation to CHCCS was inspired by the Durham Lions Club, which offers low-cost vision services and has used its own screener to provide eye scans for the community.

CHCCS pre-K/Head Start Director John Battaglia said the department noticed a need for personalized eyesight testing for children.

Before the Carrboro Lions Club donation, CHCCS had only one screener for all schools.

“We can’t thank them enough for this more than generous donation,” Battaglia said.

The screener scans the kids' eyes to assess their vision, then produces a report that outlines any abnormalities found within their eyesight. Each screening takes around one minute to complete.

The report produced goes in depth enough to conclude the actual type of eye disorders that may have been detected, allowing families to know what the next step should be with their pediatrician or optometrist.

Wood said the pre-K/Head Start program will screen about 15 children per month. Another benefit of the screener, Wood said, is that it is compact and easy to transport.

"The portability and ease of getting the children to do what's needed to look into their eyes makes it really worthwhile to them," he said.

Due to the diversity of the younger children within the pre-K/Head Start program, the traditional letter recognition eye test does not always work.

Many of the students may be too young to be able to recognize letters, may not be able to understand the English language proficiently or may have developmental delays that make letters difficult to recognize or verbalize, CHCCS Exceptional Children Program Facilitator Ashley Kellum said. 

“There can be a lot of complications between vision screening and early childhood," Battaglia said. "If you identify letters, you have to first know what those letters are." 

Although housed within the pre-K/Head Start program, this screener can be used by children up to the age of 5 living in the school district whose families are getting their child identified and monitored for possible disabilities, Battaglia said.

He said families can schedule appointments to be assessed by reaching out to the district.

Kellum, who works firsthand with screening pre-K/Head Start children, said that the Welch Spot Vision Screener is particularly efficient and engages the kids easily.

"I think we’ve seen more kids younger and younger who are getting glasses prescribed and getting their vision impairments corrected earlier," she said. "It’s helpful for us too, particularly for special education, if we’re doing evaluations to be able to rule out that there’s any concerns with their vision that might be impacting some other area of development."

For those interested in volunteering with the visually impaired, contact Wood here

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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