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Putting ‘the Spot’ on vision problems

Posted: Monday, Dec 10th, 2012

HURON — Rather than trying to memorize the lines of letters on the distance eye chart, students are getting their eyes tested with a device that can’t be cheated, one that gives school nurses the same information in a few seconds that used to take over a week to determine. The new vision-screening device — called the Spot — is helping the Huron School District take a more proactive stance regarding students’ eye health.

Spot is a non-invasive technique that works from about three feet away, said Rita Baszler, one of three registered nurses in the Huron School District. Since school nurses started using Spot in October, over 1,100 students from kindergarten to high school have been screened, said Baszler.

Spot checks for several common conditions, said school nurse Joanna Bott. “It tests for astigmatism, near-sightedness, far-sightedness, unequal power in the eyes, blurred vision, pupil size deviations, and also for lazy eye,” said Bott.

The school district was able to borrow the Spot from the South Dakota Lions Foundation with help from the Huron Lions clubs. “We first heard about it last January while attending our state Lions convention,” said Lions club member Leanne Gutormson.

To get the ball rolling, members of the local Lions Clubs partnered with the South Dakota Lions Foundation to host an informational meeting, inviting staff at the school district as well as eye doctors in the area. Because the South Dakota Lions Foundation furnished the Spot machine, a parent or guardian must sign a consent form allowing the screening results to be shared with the foundation. As a result, some parents have chosen not to allow the screening to be performed on their child.

One student whose life has been forever changed by having the Spot screening is 10-year-old Kile Block. A special needs student, Kile suffered a traumatic brain injury as an infant. “We had taken Kile to the eye doctor a couple of times where we used to live, and all they could ever tell us is they thought his eye health was fine,” said his mom, Lesly Block. “With the machine that the school had borrowed, they were able to tell us that he’s far-sighted and near-sighted, his eyes don’t align right and he has astigmatism.”

He’s adjusted to having glasses very well, she added. “Since he’s gotten the glasses, it took five minutes and I noticed a difference in him. He would walk up to the pictures on our wall and touch our faces, he walked around our whole house touching everything — he could finally see.”

Block says she hopes the school can get a Spot to use all the time so others like her son can get the help they need.

Baszler said after seeing how many kids the device has helped, she and other nurses are hoping to fundraise the $7,490 needed for the Huron School District to purchase a Spot by the 2013-2014 school year. “This would eliminate it as an optional program and make it a standard for all students across the board,” she said.

The benefits of Spot are numerous, said school nurse Rebekah Storm. “It’s fast and it’s easy to use; it took seconds to learn how to operate it,” she said. “At the high school level we used it as a volunteer basis. The students that felt they needed it were the ones that were screened. It would be different if we had our own — we could have everyone participate.”

“The Spot not only detects the sight problems, but it can detect a blockage or another medical condition that might be caused by unequal pupil size that we would never catch,” explained Baszler. “There are conditions that may not end up in the students needing glasses, but they still need to be seen by an eye doctor for.”

Studies from the American Optometric Association have found that 70 percent of children diagnosed with a learning disability have a vision issue, and between the ages of 9 to 15, only 10 percent of kids who need eyeglasses actually have them.

For the complete article see the 12-09-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-09-2012 paper.

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