FocusFirst comes to Butler County

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Carson Land, a Regional Coordinator for Impact Alabama helps a child at the Birmingham area daycare center. FocusFirst will be checking the eyes of 148 children in Butler County. Submitted Photo

FocusFirst will be checking the eyes of 148 children in Butler County.

“We’re providing high tech vision screenings to children, and most are ages two to four,” President of Impact Alabama, Stephen Black said. “Usually, 11 to 12 percent will fail the screening, and we will provide all of their information to our partner, Site Savers America, which is a network of ophthalmologists and optometrists, if they need follow up care and free care including frames and glasses if they need it.”

On Sept. 27, FocusFirst will be at Healthy Kids at 9 a.m., and on Sept. 30, Greenville Head Start and Georgiana Head Start at 9 a.m.

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“It really is a critical age for screening, and the majoring have it by age two,” Black said. “Kids don’t know if they’re not seeing well, and it’s much more valuable to screen them at this age. I can assure 10 to 12 percent of those kids on those two days will have vision problems and they will have no idea.”

The process is completely non invasive to the children, Black said.

“We use a fancy camera that takes pictures of the children’s eyes, Black said. “These cameras require the eyes to be dilated so we turn the lights out. We set up a dark room in the day cares or Head Starts, we lead the kids in, sit with them in the dark, lead them to the camera and takes pictures of their eyes. The camera is not that hard for people to use, what’s challenging is to keep three year olds from crying.”

FirstFocus is a non-profit organization that partners with more than 20 colleges around the state.

“The incredible part is our staff is always at the screenings,” Black said. “Always one of our staff members is one year out of college working for one year for $1,000 per month, which is not even minimum wage. It’s really worth trying to figure out how to do it, and we know most of the children already have it and start to fall behind in their ability in knowing how to read.”