Needs and Deeds: Oklahoma group uses new technology to help children see

Spot vision screeners can test children as young as 6 months
By Paighten Harkins, Staff Writer Published: July 14, 2014

When Declan, a child with a lazy eye and astigmatism, put on his glasses for the first time and really saw trees, he thought he saw candy in the leaves.

But there wasn’t any candy. He was just finally seeing the details — the leaves, branches, flowers and fruit — of a tree. They were no longer green blobs.

Before Declan was screened by Prevent Blindness Oklahoma screeners, his parents never thought he had a vision problem. This is true for many of the children screened.

Last school year, the nonprofit screened 444,340 Oklahoma children in all 77 counties. Of those children, 41,411 were referred to an eye care professional.

Now, the group can help more children with a new piece of technology, the Spot vision screener.

Before the group received the Spot screeners, it relied on methods such as the standard chart screening, where children would look at a chart 10 feet away and answer questions, or a Random Dot “E” Stereopsis test for younger children to determine whether they can see 3-D effects, said Dianna Bonfiglio, CEO and president of Prevent Blindness Oklahoma.

The Spot test can screen children who can’t speak and can test children as young as 6 months, Bonfiglio said.

The test is especially useful for children who have trouble standing still, who have focus problems or whose first language isn’t English, since the children don’t communicate what they are seeing. The test does it for them, screener Amy Romberg said.

The test picks up on astigmatism, near-sightedness, eye misalignment and more.

The device, which looks like a cross between a View-Master and a digital camera, will instantly tell the screener what issues the child may have after it’s taken a photo of the eyes, Romberg said.

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How to help

Prevent Blindness Oklahoma

To donate money to Prevent Blindness Oklahoma, go to the website at www.preventblindnessok.org.

To volunteer, go to the website, or call 848-7123 for office and event opportunities in Oklahoma City, or (918) 496-3484 for Tulsa events.

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