Jessica Rodriguez had never noticed anything out of the ordinary with her 5-year-old son’s eyesight. So when she heard he may be in need of glasses, she was taken by surprise.
“I have another child who’s barely three months old,” Rodriguez said. “I guess me being so busy here and there I really didn’t notice my son having trouble with his vision.”
Rodriguez’ son Jayden Handy is a kindergarten student at Runn Elementary in Donna. Rodriguez said he never complained about not being able to see. But word came to her from the Donna Independent School District in the form of a letter recommending Jayden be checked by an eye doctor. From that point on she paid close attention to his actions at home and began to notice signs of her boy’s vision trouble.
“I noticed he would sit very close to the television,” Rodriguez said. “I’d tell him to get back because it would hurt his eyes. He’d say ‘no I want to see TV.’ When he’d read a book or grab my phone, he would put it right in front of his face. He would also bump into stuff.”
Rodriguez has since set up an appointment with a local eye doctor. The chances he may need glasses are likely, according to Cesar Montelongo, past District Governor of the Weslaco Lions Club. He and other club members volunteered for the third year straight year at Donna ISD to conduct vision screenings for Pre-K through Kinder students enrolled in the 14 elementary schools.
“We send out a consent form asking parents for permission for us to do this examination and luckily, almost 100 percent accept and sign the form,” Montelongo said.
The Lions Club uses a device called Spot Vision to perform the eye exams. “What the Spot Vision camera does is it looks for seven criteria in the eyes,” Montelongo said. “One of the main things it does is it identifies astigmatism which the schools cannot pick up in their chart exams. It will tell us if the student did or did not pass the exam. If they don’t pass it, we provide the parents a printout of the information to take to their eye doctor.”
The Lions Club with the assistance of DISD nursing staff tested 1,127 students this year. Of those, 248 did not meet the seven criteria and were recommended to see an eye doctor. Those whose families can’t afford the expense could be eligible for financial help from the school district.
“If the family has no insurance or Medicaid, the nurse does a medical referral and sends it to the Health Services office,” said RoseMaria Campos, DISD Health Services Director. “My office processes the request for a voucher so the student can be seen by the eye doctor. Without this assistance, many families would not be able to afford to take their child to an eye doctor, much less buy eyeglasses.”
“You feel like a million bucks,” Montelongo replied when asked how it felt when they help students. “I had a teacher say thank you. My son is wearing glasses because of you and the
district. Now, he can read better and do a lot of things better than what he used to. This is what makes us feel good.”
Donna ISD Superintendent Fernando Castillo applauds the Lions Club for helping DISD students. “The reality of it is that we as educators want to be certain our students are as prepared as possible for learning. At the Pre-K and Kinder level, we’re looking specifically at phonics, letter recognition and symbol recognition. We expect them to be able to read and write but if sight is a hindrance, it can impact them significantly. We certainly appreciate and thank the Lions Club for their help with this project.”