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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Pacoima

Program Has Vision to Test Kids' Eyes

May 25, 2000|ROBERTO J. MANZANO

About 100 children at Maclay Middle School were ushered into the health office for eye exams Wednesday as part of a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and a nationwide nonprofit vision services provider.

Uninsured children who failed the tests will be given vouchers, worth about $160 each, for free comprehensive eye exams and glasses.

Vision Service Plan has promised to donate 10,000 vouchers, said Karen Maiorca, the district's director of nursing. Since February, 3,000 children have received the certificates, which are provided by the group's Sight for Students program. Most students use the certificates for glasses; some use them for corrective eye surgery.

Often children with eye problems don't realize they need glasses, Maiorca said. "A lot of kids compensate. They can go years and years without 20/20 vision and not know it because children are only seeing the world through their eyes."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 27, 2000 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Vouchers--A story Thursday about vision screenings at Maclay Middle School in Pacoima had incorrect information about how vouchers for uninsured children may be used. The vouchers may only be used for more comprehensive eye exams and glasses.

Children with vision problems are also often mistakenly labeled as lazy, clumsy or as suffering with attention deficit disorders, said Sight for Students coordinator Victoria Martinez.

"There's a lot of wasted years of learning and hardships," she said.

About 20% of middle school students require referrals to ophthalmologists and optometrists, Maiorca said. As part of the partnership, children's teachers and parents are given information sheets listing common symptoms in children with undiagnosed vision problems. These include squinting, headaches and reading with books too close to their eyes.

According to Maiorca, about 325,000 district students receive basic eye exams each year. Each child is supposed to be tested every three years. Of those tested, more than 50,000 get referrals to have their eyes checked, but only half get help.

"[For some parents] it's a very big hardship to come up with a couple of hundred dollars for glasses," Martinez said. "Part of it is parents can't always afford to have [kids] examined by an optometrist."

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