Early Childhood Vision Screening Project

The Lions Early Childhood Vision Screening Project is a vision screening program to identify treatable or preventable causes of blindness in preschool and young children in the Sudley and West Gate areas of Manassas , Bristow, Gainesville , Linton Hall, Haymarket, Bull Run Mountain and Catharpin.. The program also provides for professional eye exams and treatment of vision defects. This project is made possible through a grant from Novant Health.


Lions use the SPOT screening device (similar in appearance to a digital camera) to identify children whose eyes may have some type of defect. The volunteer takes a digital measurement of the child’s eyes from a comfortable distance of 3-4 feet. Invisible, infrared light is projected through the pupils onto the retina. Depending of the refractive error or “prescription’ of the eye, the vision screening can detect near sightedness, far sightedness, astigmatism, eye misalignment and amblyopia (dull vision).


Readings are taken of the child’s eyes while the child looks at the SPOT “camera” used for the screening. It is as easy as having the child’s picture taken (see picture).


Children 6 months through age 6 may be screened. The child must be able to fixate (look at a specific object). For this screening, the child must be able to focus on a flashing light on the camera.


Vision screening is conducted at schools, childcare centers and health fairs/clinics. Before the screening is done, the child’s parents must give their written approval, and the facility must approve the screening being conducted at their site.


All parents will receive notification of the results of their child’s screening. Those children that “fail” or are “referred” are advised that the screening indicates that their child may have a vision disorder and the parent is strongly advised to make an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.


The eye, muscles that control the eye, optic nerve, and the area of the brain that gives us vision are completely developed, no matter how perfectly or imperfectly, by the age of six. Vision deficiencies that may have occurred during development will be very difficult or impossible to treat after the age of 6 when development has completed. Many of these problems when caught early enough can be completely corrected, and the earlier they are diagnosed, the better the chance of correction and the easier and less expensive the treatment.


The cost of the screening is paid in full by the Lions using funds raised by Lions in the community.


Lions do not recommend any particular eye doctor. Lions do not make diagnosis and do not examine a child’s eyes beyond taking readings.


The first few years of a child’s life are critical in the development of normal vision. Between 70-80% of what a child learns is visually acquired; and 70% of school-age children with learning disabilities have some form of visual impairment. Vision abnormalities in a child’s eyes may occur even when the eye appears to look normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005 reported that two in three children under age 5 are never given a thorough vision screening; yet 1 in 4 school-age children has a vision abnormality.

One in every 100 children has amblyopia, lazy-eye syndrome. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, visual impairment of amblyopia will become permanent and will result in lifelong visual loss if it is untreated or insufficiently treated in early childhood.

More than 60% of the children in the United States have not been examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist by the age of 6. Most people think that when they take their children to the pediatrician that any of the problems that the child may have will be discovered and treated. Most pediatricians have only had a small amount of training related to the eyes, so vision problems are more likely detected and treated by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

A child with vision problems often does not realize that the way they see the world is not the way everyone else sees it. Most children under age 5 are not capable of communicating effectively to solve the problem.

95% of early vision problems can be corrected when detected and treated in early childhood.


If parents, schools or childcare centers are interested in scheduling a screening, they can contact Park West Lions Club, at 703-392-0077.

Screenings scheduled at schools and childcare centers generally are not open to the public.

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