LAS CRUCES---According to the American Optometric Association, children with uncorrected vision conditions face a variety of academic, social and athletic barriers. This is exactly why, since 2011, the New Mexico Lions Club Operation KidSight Program has used a state-of-the-art screening tool to detect potential vision problems in thousands of children across New Mexico.
“Early detection is key when dealing with vision conditions like ambylopia, also known as lazy eye. In some cases, early detection can save a child’s vision,” said LCPS Director of Health Services Sandy Peugh. “While many of the most common vision problems can be easily treated early on in a child’s life, if left unchecked, they can cause lifelong, irreversible vision problems as those children get older.”
The KidSight program is a statewide, nonprofit organization that works in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health to provide preventative screenings for children ages 3-7, to help identify vision potential vision problems.
During the 2016-17 school year, the KidSight program screened 5,775 LCPS students and referred 920 for a comprehensive eye examination. Across New Mexico, the KidSight program’s 25 volunteer screening teams screened more than 40,000 children and referred upwards of 7,000.
The vision screening checks for signs of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (two focus points), anisometropia (unequal refractive power), strabismus (crossed eyes), anisocoria (unequal pupil size), and amblyopia (lazy eye). The screening, which takes less than a minute per child, uses a Plusoptix S09 autorefractor camera to determine if a child's vision is within normal range limits for their age.
"If the individual results fall outside of the normal range, the child is referred to an eye doctor for a complete, dilated vision exam," Dunn said. "If a referred child receives an eye exam and treatment before their eyes are fully developed, about age 7 or 8, a large percentage of vision problems can be corrected.”
The KidSight program also works with vision service providers throughout New Mexico to provide eye examinations and treatment plans for children whose families can’t afford them.
“If a family doesn’t have Medicaid or private insurance to cover the cost of an eye exam and corrective lenses, if needed, the KidSight Program provides the required funds,” said KidSight Program Manager Brenda Dunn. “Through our Spare Pair program we can also provide an extra set of glasses to be kept at the child’s school to help ensure students won’t lose or forget their glasses.”
Since many of the most common vision problems require children to wear corrective lenses, Dunn recently started a new initiative to help negate the “uncool” stigma often associated with wearing glasses by creating the fictional, vision-themed superhero duo: Kaptain KidSight and Super Eyeris.
Dunn developed the original concept years ago, first as a comic book character and then expanded the idea to a real-life duo. “I have a brother who is a costumer in Las Vegas who was able to use the concept I developed to create costumes,” she said. “After that, I ended up meeting Kyle and his fiancée, who graciously offered to take on the roles.”
Kyle Kozloski, a firefighter with the Las Cruces Fire Department, plays the role of Kaptain KidSight, and Leslie Kozloski, a local salon owner, plays the role of Super Eyeris.
Since the duo came to fruition in late 2017, they have emphasized the importance of regular eye exams and wearing corrective lenses, for the students that need them, at elementary school presentations throughout the district.
“The students love the superhero concept. It helps get them excited about wearing glasses in a fun, engaging way,” Peugh said. “The KidSight program has already helped provide our students with a much more sophisticated and thorough screening process and this is another great way to remind the students and parents about maintaining good eye health. We’re so thankful for their continued support.”
To help raise funds for vision treatments and program expenses, the KidSight program will be holding a fundraising night on Monday, Jan. 8 from 4 to 10 p.m. at Texas Roadhouse. As part of the fundraiser, dubbed “Ribeyes for Kids’ Eyes”, Texas Roadhouse will donate 10 percent of the total value of the dining expenses that evening.
For more information about the program, visit: www.nmlionskidsight.com