Superhero vision thanks to public health

by | Jun 29, 2022 | County News, Health, Health Department

Eli King was nine years old when he went for a routine school vision screening at Grand Haven Public Schools. His mother, Kali, described the then-3rd grader as fun-loving and active. At the time, she said he showed no signs of vision loss, so she was surprised when Eli failed his vision screening and was recommended for follow up care. Further examination revealed Eli had moderate vision loss at just 20/100 vision, meaning that what Eli could see at 20 feet should have been clearly visible at 100 feet.

Between 2016 and 2020, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health performed an average of 30,000 vision and hearing screenings each year. About 9% of vision screenings and 3% of hearing tests result in a referral to a specialist for diagnosis and care. These State of Michigan mandated programs are provided free of charge to ensure that undiagnosed issues don’t result in a child failing to meet their full potential. Although the screenings can be done by appointment at the health department, providing checks in school removes some of the barriers families can experience in accessing these necessary and required services.

Remarkably, Eli never struggled in school because of his vision loss. However, when he received his new glasses in 2020, his world opened and he could see details he was never able to notice before, like flowers on the trees and details on buildings. Eli described those first moments like being a superhero with x-ray vision.

“I was shocked when they told me I needed glasses, but when I put them on, it all made sense. My favorite was when I put them on for the first time and everything was so different,” Eli said.

Kali shared that without the school screening, she wouldn’t have been alerted to his vision problem.

“It really does take a village to raise kids,” Kali said. “Seeing his world with glasses has given me a new perspective too. I enjoy watching his joy at seeing all the things he missed for so long. Seeing him enjoy the world around him is a joy for me too.”

Eli, now 11 years old, recently had to get a stronger prescription for his glasses. His eye care specialist is not concerned about his eye health at this time but does anticipate his prescription for glasses continuing to change as he grows. Without the Hearing and Vision program, Eli’s vision loss may have gone undetected, causing difficulty in school and in his everyday activities.

“A child’s ability to see and hear are vital to learning. Screenings are an important tool to obtain information about hearing and vision loss and can contribute to a child’s overall health and well-being,” said Leslie VerDuin, BSN, RN, Hearing and Vision Services Program Supervisor.

Hearing and vision screening is required for any child entering kindergarten in the 2022-2023 school year, but all children ages 3 to 6 are eligible for screening. If your child is preparing for school, or if you have a concern, call (616) 396-5266 to schedule a free screening today.

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