SHERIDAN — As part of the statewide Wyoming Lions Early Childhood Vision Project, several area Lions Club chapters have contributed resources to purchase a mobile vision screening machine to conduct free vision screenings on young children.
The machine, a Plusoptix S12 mobile vision screener, will allow local volunteers to screen the vision of hundreds of area children in coming months and years. Screenings are targeted at children ages 6 to 72 months.
The machine and its associated equipment and supplies cost $7,000. Contributions for it were donated by individual Lions Club members, Lions Club chapters in Big Horn, Buffalo, Story, Kaycee and the Sheridan Sundowners Lions Club. The Child Development Center, Region 2, also contributed.
The machine works by taking a “photograph” of a child’s eyes in about one second and immediately prints out results. If a possible vision problem is detected, parents or guardians are notified and encouraged to follow up for further tests at an eye doctor’s office. Results are also sent to the Wyoming Lions Early Childhood Vision Project Reading Center, which has additional follow-up contact with parents and guardians.
The machine can test for a variety of vision problems including nearsightedness, farsightedness, lazy eye, blurred vision, unequal refraction of two eyes and eyes that are not properly aligned.
Leslea Rapp, a Sheridan Sundowners Lions Club member, said there is currently another vision screening machine in town, owned by the Child Development Center, but because of its size and sensitivity, its use is somewhat limited.
“It is so much more sensitive,” Rapp said. “It is more cumbersome to take it places, so they try to do to it in groups at the facility. That is why they teamed up with us for this machine because they can use it also and take it very easily to places.”
Rapp said the new mobile unit weighs just 39 ounces.
Catching and correcting vision problems early in children can be critical so they do not experience delayed development or struggle in school due to poor eyesight.
Jim Rapp, also a member of the Sheridan Sundowners, said catching certain vision problems early can also prevent blindness later on in life. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, occurs in approximately 3 to 5 percent of children and if left untreated, can cause blindness.
Rapp said the group currently has 11 volunteers trained on the device in Sheridan, Big Horn and Story and they are looking for more assistance. The trainings are two hours in length and are held in small groups of three or four so that each person gets a chance to work the device. Rapp said anyone with an interest in helping with the project is welcome to volunteer, whether or not they are a Lions Club member.
Rapp said vision screenings will be scheduled at various child care centers as well as public events in the future. He said it is recommended that children get tested at least twice, preferably three times, by the age of 6.
For more information about the project or to volunteer, contact Jim Rapp at 752-1518 or Connie Breck at 672-7193.