Written & Compiled by Julie Sage
“I can’t SEE it”, whispered four-year-old Jesse to our Assistance League volunteer sitting next to him.
The eye chart was on the wall 10 feet in front of Jesse. Instead of letters of the alphabet, it has rows of pictures of different shaped objects that preschoolers can easily identify: a circle, a house, a heart, a square. Jesse stood quietly on the paper feet cutouts that were taped to the floor to preserve the necessary distance from the chart. Wearing the fun costume eyeglasses, where each eye is patched in turn to test the other, Jesse tried to spot a house on the wall chart to match the house on the card the nice lady was holding. He couldn’t see it.
Jesse’s parents were sent a referral letter to follow-up with an eye doctor because vision problems had been detected. The parents were very thankful. Jesse got the eyeglasses he needed to improve his sight at an early age and he would be able to do well in school.
Twenty-nine Assistance League of Greater Placer eye-screening-trained volunteers, visit 9 preschools in Auburn, Rocklin, Lincoln and Roseville to play the “eye game” with 275 children. And when their eye test is completed, the child receives a special sticker!
Program Chair Carol explains, “Screen Eyes Early, or S.E.E. as we call it, has helped many preschool children see and learn better by referring them to the eye doctor so they can receive their first prescription eyeglasses.”
Volunteer Jessica tells, “When a volunteer feels a child should be retested, we request the child a second time. There are many reasons for retesting: the child was distracted, there was a two-line difference for each eye, the child was nervous or we wanted to make certain he/she needed a referral. Before we refer any child we always retest. We requested one child to come back for retesting; meanwhile, another preschool child wandered into the room without our knowledge. I told the first child we were going to retest and how lucky he was to play the eye game twice. The child that wandered into the room spoke up and said, ‘ I want to play the eye game again.’ Of course, we let her.”
And there is this S.E.E. memory from Volunteer Cynthia: “Trying to keep five 3 and 4-year-olds, entertained while they wait their turn to get their eye screening is a test of being an entertainer with great patience. Little Joey, with animated talking and gestures, kept jumping out of his chair hitting every puppet I presented. With a stroke of genius, Volunteer Chris announced that Joey was going to be tested first in the group.”
The Screen Eyes Early program was introduced to our chapter in 2012. While some of our Assistance League of Greater Placer philanthropic programs require a big budget, this program’s most valuable resource is our volunteers who provide one-on-one personal attention to the children in our communities. In addition to the time spent in the classrooms, volunteers spend hours in training, organization and sending follow-up letters.
When asked why our members volunteer for this Screen Eyes Early program, here are some of their responses:
- I have found S.E.E. to be helpful to both parents and teachers. Several times we have recommended that a child be checked further for the need of glasses. I personally had one mother thank me for confirming her own observations! The children are so delightful, adorable and fun to work with. Volunteer Marge
- In the years I’ve worked with S.E.E., we’ve found several children with possible amblyopia (lazy eye)—making this program so beneficial. If amblyopia is not treated before age 6, the child often loses sight in that eye. It’s not always apparent to parents or teachers because the child will use his or her strong eye to see. Volunteer Chris
- I was motivated to volunteer on the S.E.E. committee because when my grandson was in kindergarten, his teacher observed that he was having trouble focusing on his reading. She mentioned it to my daughter-in-law who subsequently took him in for a doctor’s appointment and discovered that he needed reading glasses! How observant could that teacher be, and thanks to her he is back on track! I also enjoy working with the little children. They are a joy! Volunteer Lucy
- I have a grand-daughter who is blind (optic nerve tumor diagnosed at five months), and although her condition could never have been detected by what we do, S.E.E. naturally falls into my volunteering interests. Volunteer Judy
(front row Linda, Sandy, Kathy. back row Terri, Cynthia)
Caring and Commitment in Action! And Fun!