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THE EYES HAVE IT
Preschoolers screened for vision issues

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

SIOUX CITY – The pupils at Angel House Day Care and Preschool Center sat quietly on their miniature chairs, little legs freely swinging back and forth, but with hands gripping their seats in a bit of apprehension.

That is until volunteers Steve Cogdill and his wife, Barb Cogdill, engaged the youngsters in some conversation. The couple kidded and joked with each youngster to calm fears, ensure a comfort level and provide a teaching moment.

Cogdill called each one by name, as they hesitantly approached him with paper work.

"Take a seat, take a seat and we're going to take a photo of your eyes," he welcomed each child and gestured to the pint-sized chair, located a few feet away. "Now look here, is that light green or red or yellow?"
Teachers who stood off to the side probably breathed a sigh of relief as each student guessed red correctly.

“Do they make you scrub floors here?” Steve asked with a poker face of 5-year-old Connor Fox.

Connor’s large sky-blue eyes looked a bit puzzled and he shook his head.

“Wash windows?” Steve inquired, this time with a smile.

And Connor delivered an ear-to-ear grin with a headshake.

“Really?” Barb directed her question to Connor, who had visibly relaxed by this time.

“How about singing your ABCs?” Steve requested and Connor tipped his head slightly and looked quizzically, until all three were laughing out loud.

Connor was one of the Angel House pupils who were screened on Sept. 29 by the Cogdills for vision problems. The University of Iowa and the Sioux City Noon Lions Club collaborate on this program called Iowa KidSight.

Over the years, Lions volunteers have tested thousands of preschool and day-care children – at no charge – for potential vision problems. The screenings help detect numerous eyesight problems in young children including glaucoma, cataracts and amblyopia (lazy eye).

“When the program started, we were members of the evening Lions Club,” Steve explained. “We thought it sounded interesting, so we asked to be a part of it.”

“We were hooked immediately,” Barb said.

The screening itself is done with a camera called the MTI Photoscreener, which takes special Polaroid pictures.

The child looks at the light while the volunteer lines up two arrows on the forehead to capture the pupils in the viewfinder. If the photo does not capture the eyes correctly or the child blinks, the photo has to be retaken.

Barb Cogdill estimated about 20 children can be done in an hour, depending on their cooperation, which typically is high – most likely due to the Cogdills’ endearing personalities. The couple keeps a running conversation with the screenees, in addition to distributing stickers for their participation.

Each photo has two images of the child’s eyes with a clear focus of the pupils. The child’s initials and date of birth are on each photo in order to identify them later for referral, if needed.

The results from the screenings are evaluated at the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Within four weeks the results are sent to the administrators at the preschools, then, sent to the parents of the child if a vision problem is detected.

Less than 5 percent of those screenings result in some type of problem, but Steve called the service priceless for parents and their children.

“We did a screening in Whiting recently and it determined the young girl was legally blind,” he recalled. “Her parents had no idea.”

“The little girl was later fitted for glasses and on the drive home, she asked her mom, “What are those big, round things?’,” Barb added. “When her mom figured out her daughter was referring to trees with leaves, she said she started to cry. She had no idea her little girl was not seeing those things.”

The Cogdills, senior citizens and parishioners of St. Boniface Parish in Sioux City, have no plans to retire anytime soon.

“Death is probably the way we would stop doing this,” Barb said and then quipped. “And that gets closer every year.”

About 50 Siouxland preschools are contacted to set up dates for the screenings. In-home day-care providers may take advantage of the service as well.

For information on the screenings, contact Barb or Steve Cogdill at (712) 255-1789 or visit the Iowa KidSight Home page at http://webeye.ophth.uiowa.edu/IowaKidSight or the Sioux City Noon Lions at http://homepage.mac.com/lawrencebenne/SiouxCityNoonLions/Menu81.html.

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