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Knights of sight: DL Lions Club takes new sight-testing technology into more schools

Dr. Armand Radke screens Pete Granger with the vision spot screener the Lion's Club purchased last year. Kaysey Price / Tribune

What do you know? Technology is on the rise. Lions Member Pete Granger says since last year, the club has doubled the number of people they have been able to screen with their new sight-testing tool, which figures out in minutes if someone needs to schedule a visit to the eye doctor.

"We've been able to screen 2,000 children and adults just this year," said Ganger, adding that most of those benefiting are kids, since a large number of the 19 sites they visited were schools.

If scanning 2,000 people sounds like a big undertaking, Granger says it's really not. They take it in strides and he says seeing a classroom of 25 to 30 students only takes about 10 to 15 minutes—the tool is that fast.

"The world is getting around that what we do doesn't take a tremendous amount of time," said Granger, adding that the Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids school districts joined the ranks, allowing the Lions to bring in their vision spot screener.

The tool, which is held about a foot away from the patient, scans the eyes to see if a person's sight is "in range" or "out of range."

"At least you've been able to identify they need some help," said Granger, adding that the machine doesn't give a prescription or anything; it just tells you to go see a specialist to correct your sight.

And, since the technology is so non-invasive and fast, it can be used on patients as young as six months old or patients who may have trouble sitting still for a regular eye exam.

"Even the children that can't sit still or children with special needs will sit for this spot screener, whereas before, with the chart, they maybe weren't able to understand what we needed," said Mary Frank, Health Specialist at Mahube.

Frank says sitting for a scan "is a lot like getting your picture taken," and the kids like it because they can see their reading on the screen afterwards.

The Lions paired with Mahube and have been able to screen over 500 children just through the organization. Being that the device is easy to use, Frank is able to take it when she does home visits or goes into classrooms, and she says it's made a world of difference for the kids.

"Many times, children aren't taken in for a vision exam unless a problem is detected," said Frank, adding that if poor vision isn't detected early, it can impact a student's learning, causing them to fall behind. "We're finding that the younger children are screened, the better. There are issues that can be detected and corrected earlier, so the child isn't losing that learning time."

Frank said if younger children aren't screened, the issue may not be detected until preschool or kindergarten, when the child sits behind a desk and can't make out images on a blackboard. And, at that point, they may have fallen behind in recognizing letters, numbers and shapes.

"The other thing is that vision can change," said Frank. "Maybe a child is seen at eight, and the vision is corrected, and the parent thinks they don't need to go back. But the vision changes, so that yearly check is so important."

Granger says about 10 percent of the people who get scanned get a referral to go see the eye doctor. Of the 2,000 people they scanned this year, that would be able 200 who were in need of corrective lenses or a stronger prescription.

And both Granger and Frank agree that it's pretty rewarding to help kids see clearly.

"We've had little ones that get glasses and say, 'Oh, the colors are so bright!' or 'I couldn't see that sign before'." said Frank. "I think the tool is a huge asset for the whole community."