Weekly Feature



2017-10-12 / Front Page

Lions Club expands free eye screenings to Lancaster Central

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter


Orchard Park Lions Club member Dave Gehring uses a Spot Vision Screener on Tuesday to check the eyes of Olivia DeLisle, who is in second grade at John A. Sciole Elementary. The $7,000 device, which can spot conditions such as astigmatism in young children, is being used in elementary schools in the Lancaster Central School District for the first time this year, courtesy of the Lions Club of Lancaster and the Lions Screening Eyes Early program. Orchard Park Lions Club member Dave Gehring uses a Spot Vision Screener on Tuesday to check the eyes of Olivia DeLisle, who is in second grade at John A. Sciole Elementary. The $7,000 device, which can spot conditions such as astigmatism in young children, is being used in elementary schools in the Lancaster Central School District for the first time this year, courtesy of the Lions Club of Lancaster and the Lions Screening Eyes Early program. Thanks to a collaborative effort between local Lions Club members and school officials, Lancaster Central students in pre-Kindergarten through second grade are receiving free eye screenings for the first time using the latest technology.

Michael Lawkowski, a member of the Lions Club of Lancaster and state president of eye screening program Lions Screening Eyes Early, said his organization recently approached the district about conducting the free screenings using a Spot Vision Screener.

The handheld device, which costs approximately $7,000, can evaluate eyes at a distance of about 3 feet and detect common conditions such as astigmatism and amblyopia, or “lazy eye.”

Lawkowski said the Lions SEE program, now 12 years old, has expanded rapidly in recent years through using the technology, and this year has been able to include Lancaster in its efforts.

He said the work is important because if detected before age 7, conditions like amblyopia can be corrected.

“The earlier we can find those children, the more likelihood there is of saving that one eye for them,” he said.

Screenings are being conducted in classrooms in all of the district’s elementary schools, and the data collected from them is being given to school nurses, who in turn are evaluating that data and recommending referrals to parents if an eye problem is identified.

Lawkowski said that so far, Lancaster’s referral rate of 8 percent is “very encouraging” compared to the statewide rate of 14 percent.

“That usually means the parents are taking their kids to see an eye doctor early,” he said.

Judith Wolanin, head nurse for the district and school nurse at Court Street Elementary, said approximately 1,100 elementary and pre-kindergarten students in the district had been screened at Court Street, Hillview, Como Park and Central Avenue, with screenings at John A. Sciole scheduled for Tuesday morning.

She said the screenings are already leading to results, reporting that five of 19 students at Court Street who received referral recommendations for eye conditions have had those conditions addressed by eye specialists.

And while the screenings don’t replace those that nurses have to conduct as per state requirements, Wolanin said they are useful as an added detection tool, and are especially helpful for students who have a language barrier.

“As we’re getting more and more students with foreign languages and inabilities to understand what we’re asking them, then it kind of will give a great prescreening,” she said. “If we cannot screen them, it’s kind of a nice tool to have.”

Lawkowski said Lions Club members plan to return to Lancaster’s elementary schools yearly to screen the same students again, following them up through second grade to make sure no additional problems develop.

Retired Lancaster Central Superintendent Edward Myszka, a longtime member of the Lions Club of Lancaster who helped bring the Spot Vision Screener to Lancaster Central, felt the technology will have a “profound, long-term effect” on the success of students.

To learn more about the Lions SEE program, visit www.lionsseeny.org/.

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