According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “good vision is key to a child’s physical development, success in school and overall well-being. The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, and equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively. It is essential to check children’s vision when they are first born and again during infancy, preschool and school years.” A ophthalmologist, pediatrician, family doctor or other trained health professional can do these eye exams.

The Lions Club of Southington, CT performs free eye screenings (not exams) of children from 6 months to 18 years old throughout the year. Lions members are usually at the Southington Library on the first Saturday of the month, attend the Healthy Family Funfest in February and can visit the schools and childcare centers in town upon request (email).

Members of the Lions Club have been trained in the use of the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener which looks for these conditions:

1. Astigmatism is an imperfection in the curvature of your cornea.
2. Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is sometimes called “lazy eye.”
3. Anisocoria is when your pupils are different sizes. The pupil is the black area at the center of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The pupil allows light to enter the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
4. Myopia, or (nearsightedness), is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus to see images clearly. In myopia, close objects look clear but distant objects appear blurred. Myopia is a common condition that affects an estimated 25 percent of Americans. It is an eye focusing disorder, not an eye disease.
5. Hyperopia (farsightedness), is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus to see images clearly. In hyperopia, distant objects look somewhat clear, but close objects appear more blurred.
6. Strabismus is a visual problem in which the eyes are not aligned properly and point in different directions. One eye may look straight ahead, while the other eye turns inward, outward, upward or downward.
7. Anisometropic or Refractive Amblyopia is when a child has a different amount of refractive error in each eye.

The individual screening takes just a few seconds and is performed from a distance of about three feet. There is no physical contact with the child and no eye drops are administered. The equipment provides a printout of the child’s vision results which you can bring to your eye doctor if an issue is identified.

The ECCS promotes the dates of Lions Club vision screenings via Facebook and Twitter.