Over the past two years, PBNC’s Children’s Vision Screening Certification program staff have worked closely with the lead school nurse in Graham County to arrange training for 28 school nurses and volunteer high school health occupation student screeners. PBNC teaches screeners to evaluate school-aged children for appearance, behavior, and complaint signs as well as how to use the LEA Symbols or Sloan Letters vision screening chart to determine a child’s visual acuity. All screeners receive a free evidence-based vision screening chart as part of the training. In Graham County, these PBNC certified screeners conduct mass vision screening for children in Kindergarten through sixth grade annually. Schools are an important PBNC partner in identifying vision problems that may impact a child’s development and educational process. For families that don’t seek regular medical care, or are unsure of the medical system, schools can be a place they trust, where people already know their child.
One school nurse shared a story of a local child that was impacted by this important training and screening partnership between PBNC and the schools. “We had a kindergarten student fail his eye exam during a mass screening. We rescreened him and he still failed.” When children fail either the observation or acuity portion of the vision screening, they are referred to an eye doctor for further evaluation and treatment if needed. PBNC provides access to voucher programs offering free eye exams and glasses to children whose families are in financial need. The school nurse said, “The boy’s dad took him to the eye doctor and he received glasses. His kindergarten teacher reported to me that since her student has received glasses, he has improved so much in his classwork. He went from a retention grade to a passing grade. He is so proud of having his glasses!”
As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. When certain visual skills are poorly developed, learning can be difficult and stressful. Fortunately, vision problems in children are highly treatable if caught early – 75% of blindness and vision impairment is preventable or treatable. If vision screenings are provided at no cost within the school system and affordable follow-up care is readily available, then problems can be detected and corrected to not only improve a child’s quality of life, but also help them to realize their full potential in the classroom.