The preschoolers at the YWCA Central Alabama were all smiles recently – until they got in front of the camera, that is. The children were only following directions when they suddenly grew serious. They’d been told not to smile because these photos were all about the eyes, which needed to be wide open.
Impact Alabama’s FocusFirst program recently provided vision screenings for all of the toddlers and preschoolers in the YW’s child development programs. “Early intervention is key,” said Rikki Ross, child development center director. “It’s great for us to get our children screened at these early ages because then we can help parents take the necessary steps to improving the kids’ vision.”
The screening process was a quick one. Amanda Sanderson, an AmeriCorps member serving with the program, explained to the children that the pictures would be taken in a dark room. She sprawled a red rope light across the floor, which kept the children from being frightened and helped their eyes dilate before they faced the high-tech photo optic scan camera, which was developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The FocusFirst crew conducts screenings for low-income children each fall at child care and Head Start centers all over Alabama, Sanderson said. FocusFirst also helps to provide glasses for children whose parents can’t afford them. “It’s really interesting to see a nonprofit take such a comprehensive approach to things that can make a literal impact very quickly,” she said.
The screenings have made a difference for the boys and girls at the YW, according to Delyne Hicks, senior director of child development services. “A number of our children have been identified as needing glasses, most recently a 2-year-old,” she said. “This is not something that’s in the routine screenings pediatricians usually do, so to be able to partner with Impact Alabama to provide this for our children is tremendous. It has allowed us to identify problems with children younger and younger, and we are so grateful to them for providing this important service.”
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