Annual effort involves testing all Janesville P4J, kindergartners
In 1925 the activist for the disabled, Helen Keller — born blind and deaf but who later in life learned sign language, Braille, and to speak — addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions everywhere to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
Since then, the main service focus of Lions International and its member clubs has been to champion for and serve those afflicted with blindness, low vision, and other vision-related ailments. The Janesville Lions Club is proud to carry on that tradition locally with its efforts to annually provide vision screening to all P4J and kindergarten students.
Our club members are very proud of this program, because of the impact it can have on a child’s life. Many children ages 5-6 may have no idea that there is anything wrong, because that is all they know.
Identifying and correcting vision-related issues at an early age may help the child be a better student, perform better in school or extracurricular activities, or promote better self-esteem because they no longer feel excluded or left out of activities because of their vision or lack thereof.
2022-23 Vision Screening Program
In the fall of 2022 we received the green light to resume our vision screening program in the Janesville elementary schools. Lions members received some refresher training on how to use the camera in late September, and by early October were in the schools.
Because of the two-year layoff, each elementary school was provided the opportunity to have any or all of their students at all grade levels tested. Instead of just the 4- and 5-year olds, at many locations we tested every student from the P4J program to fifth grade. Many of these students had never had their eyes screened at school due to the pandemic-related disruptions.
During the Fall 2022 semester, our club screened 2,693 students from the School District of Janesville’s 12 elementary schools. Of those, 461 were referred for further eye testing, which is 18% of the total number screened.
During the Spring 2023 semester our club will turn its attention to screening students at the city’s off-site P4J locations and parochial schools.
2020-21 and 2021-22 Vision Screening Program
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic limited access to schools and stretched the district’s nursing staff extremely thin, so the decision was made to postpone the vision screening program indefinitely.
Our goal each school year is to screen as many of Janesville’s P4J and kindergarten students as possible. To do so, our club in 2019 donated $4,000 to the School District of Janesville to help purchase a state-of-the-art Welch Allyn vision-screening camera and related accessories. This camera will be used during the 2019-20 school year and beyond.
The School District of Janesville ordered the camera in August 2019, and it arrived in early fall. Janesville Lions members and the school district’s nursing staff received training on how to use this new camera.
The differences between this new camera and the borrowed camera we had used the previous year were numerous and amazing. The Welch Allyn technology is capable of screening for a wide array of vision-related issues (even while a child is wearing prescription glasses!) and makes the district’s job of managing student records and screening data a lot more streamlined.
Between November 2019 and February 2020, Lions and district nurses completed an initial round of screenings at most of the elementary schools, some off-site P4J locations, and some of the city’s parochial schools. We screened more than 1,300 children, with a referral rate of roughly 11%.
We were unable to complete the screening program in all of the schools and daycare sites, as in early March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and closed schools for the remainder of the school year.
During the 2018-19 school year and using a camera borrowed from the Beloit Lions Club, the Janesville Lions screened more than 1,100 students from all 12 School District of Janesville elementary schools, as well as several area private/parochial schools and private daycare facilities that are a part of the Preschool4Janevsille (P4J) program.
Our results showed possible vision issues in about 1 in 6 students. Parents were notified of the findings and encouraged to take their child to see an optometrist. Those families who could not afford the cost of the appointment, vision correction, or both, were referred to HealthNet of Rock County and the Lions Club covered the costs.