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Lions to offer vision screening for youngsters on Saturday

Posted: Wednesday, Jul 24th, 2013

Marana Host Lions President Richard Singervalt screening eyesight. Courtesy photo

MARANA Marana resident Su-Lin Trepanitis wants every child to see well enough to do well in school - but she needs some help.

With the help of a team of volunteers, Lions Club Vision Chairman Su-Lin and the Lions of southern Arizona do a preliminary vision screening for thousands of youngsters each fall. And the demand is growing.

"Last year, Tucson and Marana Lions screened about 3,500 children in 14 locations. This year, we already have nine locations lined up, beginning with El Rio and Marana Health Center Back to School Health Fairs in July," Trepanitis notes.

The next Marana screening is scheduled at Marana Healthcare - Back to School Health Fair from 8 a.m. - to noon, on July 27. A screening in Red Rock has been scheduled for 8 a.m. - 11 a.m., on Aug. 7.

The bulk of vision screenings are done from July through October, as schools scramble to meet state school board deadlines for getting students evaluated.

Schools are lining up for the Lions services, which are limited by the number of volunteers available to do the screenings and available equipment. According to Trepanitis, the Lions of southern Arizona now own enough equipment to do two screenings per day through the busy season - but could use a lot more volunteers willing to give a few hours to help children succeed.

Under the direction of state certified screeners like Trepanitis, each screening requires a team of 6 to 8 Lions and volunteers for four to five hours. Some screenings can be broken into shifts for those who can contribute only two hours at a time.

A short orientation class prior to taking part in any screening is required. Non-Lion volunteers interested in helping can contact Trepanitis at sulink@earthlink.net to sign up for the orientation.

Lions vision screenings provide only a simple pass/fail screening using either traditional wall charts or screening machines. Wall charts for very young children are marked with symbols like house, heart or square, rather than letters.

"We look for visual acuity and for signs of amblyopia or what we used to call 'lazy eye.' Lions screeners do no diagnosis, but we do try to catch those children who may have learned to compensate for poor vision by squinting, tilting their heads or excessive eye rubbing," Trepanitis says.

Results of the screenings are turned over to the sponsoring school or agency for follow up with parents. About 12 - 15 percent of students screened typically are referred for professional exams.

"Of course, the ideal situation would be for every child to have a full professional eye exam each year, but we recognize that may not be feasible for every family, so the Lions do what we can to make sure every child really can see well enough to succeed in school," Trepanitis says. "A Lions screening is a quick and easy way for parents to learn if their child might need a full eye exam by an eye care professional. And for those parents who have no insurance, Lions do offer help with those professional exams and any needed glasses," Trepanitis notes.

Good vision does more than just help a child see the board at school.According to the Arizona Department of Health Services , untreated vision problems can lead to loss of vision, learning problems, and delayed development. Children with untreated poor vision are more apt to be labeled "slow learners" or held back a grade level. Vision problems can keep a child from learning to read. And students who have trouble seeing may be more often picked on or bullied by their classmates.

"Last year, we screened a third grade girl who absolutely failed all attempts to read the charts. Her vision was extremely poor, but for some reason the problem had not been noticed earlier. Perhaps she had just moved into the district, or perhaps some problem had kept her family from getting her vision exams earlier. And some children become expert at compensating - after all, they don't know what good vision should be," Trepanitis relates.

"We were able to identify a huge need - and offer that family help in getting the need met. Just think what a difference that made for that child. Her whole life probably changed because she can see better. That's when it feels really good to be a Lion," Trepanitis says.

About a dozen Lions clubs in Pima County take part in the annual screening events led by Tucson Downtown Lions. In Marana, the new Marana Host Lions Club will take part in screenings this year and a new partnership between Marana Host Lions Club and Marana Health Center is bringing vision screening to MHC back to school events as well.

Local Lions are part of Lions Clubs International, the world's largest service organization. Each club chooses projects they feel are important for the community, but internationally, Lions have worked to encourage independence for blind individuals and provide better vision for all persons ever since Helen Keller challenged the organization to become her "Knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."

Lions Clubs have been serving Pima County for 90 years.

For the complete article see the 07-24-2013 issue.

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