Poor vision has a direct, negative effect on a child’s ability to learn, and many children suffer from vision problems each year. Therefore, vision screenings are very important during a child’s preschool years when early identification and treatment of many conditions can prevent irreversible vision damage or loss. Many child care centers use traditional eye charts for screening, but this technique does not identify many major vision problems. Due to a lack of public awareness about this crucial time in a child’s vision development and the fact that a preschooler doesn’t have the capability to understand his or her own vision loss, eyesight problems may go undetected.
FocusFirst provides free vision screening to children six months to five years of age in Head Starts and daycares throughout Alabama. All children failing the screening receive free, subsidized follow-up care through their partner, Sight Savers America. During 2014-15, FocusFirst screened 38,023 preschoolers in the state of Alabama, 2,107 of those right here in the Wiregrass. 206 children failed the screening and were sent to Sight Savers for subsidized follow up care to include referrals, more extensive eye exams, and other appropriate treatment.
During 2015-16, FocusFirst utilized WF funds to conduct screenings for 2,275 children in the Wiregrass. This year they conducted screenings using the technologically advanced Spot digital screening systems. The advantages of this technology over the previously used film-based technology include the ability to analyze virtually 100% of results for vision abnormalities (previously 2-3% of results were unanalyzable), and screening results are instantly available. Results are transferred to Sight Savers America almost immediately, reducing the time between screening and the beginning of follow-up care.