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Students get a head start on vision care

October 12, 2017 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — Students at the ESU #13 Head Start spent part of their day getting health checkups, which will help put them on a path to future success.

Volunteers from the Panhandle Public Health District, Scottsbluff Vision Clinic and Webb Eyecare checked on 130 students to look for any early warning signs of tooth or vision problems. Doctors Terry Adams and Todd Mahoney from Scottsbluff Vision Clinic have volunteered for several years at the event.

Mahoney said he volunteers each year because the service is needed and it’s helpful to the six to 10 children they discover need a further, more thorough checkup on their vision. Dr. Kristen Reinard of Webb Eyecare was a first time volunteer. She has always liked working with kids and knows vision screenings for all children are important in their life.

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The optometrists used glasses which help children relax their eyes so they can get a better look at the children’s eyes. They were looking for clues, such as the eyes working together and following an object back and forth. They also looked at the back the eyes for anything that might stand out and signal a need for a follow up appointment with an optometrist.

The dental part was added this year because, in previous years, a hygienist traveled to each school and it made sense to incorporate both health checkups at the same time.

Kendra Lauruhn, public health dental hygienist with Panhandle Public Health District, said it was important to get children in the 0-5 age range because early signs of problems with a child’s teeth can be fixed so they can focus on their education.

Medical personnel weren’t the only ones volunteering their time. Several parents attended the community health day and offered their help watching over the children as they moved from station to station as well as getting nervous children to relax.

Donna Jenne, director of the Head Start programs, said the earlier a potential issue is recognized the better the chance it can be treated. The children will then be more prepared once they start kindergarten.

Jose Gutierrez came with his son, Eddie, who was hesitant about getting a checkup.

“I came to be with him so he doesn’t get too scared,” Gutierrez said. “Plus, I can help the teachers who have so many children to handle.”

Eddie has been in the program for a few years and his father said it has been a benefit to the family.

Children in the age group attending Head Start tend to have the most vision problems. Maria Perez, ESU #13 Head Start health and nutrition manager, said having an early jump on your health helps children to succeed later on.

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“If there’s a vision problem and we can identify it early on, they can have a better future,” Perez said. “If they can’t see, they can’t learn. If they have tooth pain, they’re not going to learn.”

Perez saw a handful of children last year who failed their vision screenings. This year, they showed up and were wearing glasses.

“I love seeing that boost and knowing we helped that family,” Perez said. “It’s a good feeling.”

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