READ TIME | 5 MINUTES
Vision for a Brighter Future: Parker’s Story
You’ve probably heard the expression, “When life changes in the blink of an eye” several times over the years. For Parker Williams, it was only a matter of seconds.
Lifespan Health, a non-profit community health center (FQHC) with several locations across Tennessee, provides evidence-based health care and self-management support. They are committed to making an impact in their region by providing the highest quality and most affordable healthcare while improving the health, lifestyle and well-being of the communities they serve.
In June 2018, Lifespan Health volunteered at the Summer Reading Kick-off and Healthy Kids Day at the Hardin County Public Library in Savannah, Tennessee. At this event, local organizations offered services to educate the public on health and safety. Lifespan Health offered free vision screening, the Fire Department provided information on fire safety, the Police Department assisted with car seat safety, the Health Department educated on proper nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet, the Carl Perkins Center discussed child abuse and the Library kicked off their summer reading program.
Michelle Williams, RN and Nurse Manager for Lifespan Health, was one of the volunteers who assisted with pediatric vision screening at the event. Because young children and their parents may not be aware of reduced visual functioning, instrument-based vision screening with a comprehensive eye exam is crucial to detect problems before a child’s development is compromised.
To quickly capture children’s vision at the event, Lifespan Health brought their Welch Allyn Spot™ Vision Screener. Michelle and Lifespan Health volunteers screened more than 100 kids, including Michelle’s two children—Sophie and Parker. Ironically, with all the routine vision screenings Michelle performs with children at Lifespan Health, she never thought to screen her children prior to this event.
Parker’s vision screening results indicated he needed a comprehensive eye exam. Michelle couldn’t believe it. “I was shocked, as I suffer from the same eye condition. And, being well-versed in medical issues, I couldn’t believe we didn’t notice any problems or catch this issue sooner,” says Michelle. To say Michelle felt extremely guilty would be an understatement.
Two years ago, the leadership team at Lifespan Health recognized the importance of timely diagnosis of amblyopia in children. They needed a solution to keep up with Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) requirements.2 According to EPSDT requirements, children and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid should receive both vision and hearing screenings at each well-child check-up. Since introducing the Spot Vision Screener to their practice, Lifespan Health has screened 45 kids per month, on average. They also help provide vision screenings to every child within the school system.
School years are a very important time in every child’s life. Parents want to see their children excel, and most parents do all they can to provide them with the best educational opportunities. Far too often, however, a critical learning tool is overlooked–the child’s vision. As children grow, their bodies change at a rapid pace─and their eyes are no exception.
Young children like Parker typically do not realize they have a vision problem; they think everyone sees the same way they do. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) recommend the use of photo screening instruments in young children before they can successfully complete a chart-based visual acuity test. There are a few signs that may indicate a child has a vision problem, including but not limited to1:
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Short attention span
- Covering one eye
- Tilting the head to one side
Routine vision screenings are imperative as vision problems may lead to blindness without early treatment. Once children can successfully perform a visual acuity test, usually around age five, the policy recommends2 subjectively testing visual acuity with a chart-based visual acuity test.
Michelle is incredibly thankful the Spot Vision Screener picked up the issue in Parker’s left eye. “I am glad that this technology exists because Parker could potentially have become blind in his left eye without early intervention and correction,” says Michelle. Since receiving his new glasses, Parker is thriving in school. “We once thought Parker might have a learning disability, but we now believe it was his inability to see that was affecting his reading and writing habits,” says Michelle.
“Screen your children every chance you get. You never know when you will catch an issue and make a difference in your child’s life,” says Michelle. “I owe my son’s eyesight, and new outlook on life, to the Spot Vision Screener,” Michelle adds.
1American Optometric Association, School-aged Vision: 6 to 18 years of age. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/school-aged-vision-6-to-18-years-of-age. Accessed January 14, 2019.
2U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Visual Impairment in Children Ages 1-5: Screening.
3Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Vision and Hearing Screening Services for Children and Adolescents. https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/epsdt/v-and-h/index.html. Accessed January 14, 2019.