Low vision children get help

Published 1:48 am Sunday, April 26, 2009

Children with poor eyesight received some help from Sight Savers, an organization devoted to providing eyecare to those who need it most.

The program was founded by Dr. Jeff Haddox in the late 1990s, when he saw some children were not getting the eyecare they needed. Now the program made efforts in Alabama and Mississippi and has a separate pilot program in Mississippi.

Haddox said he started the organization after 20 years experience as an optometrist showed him some children were not getting the eyecare they needed. Children, especially young ones, do not know if they have sight problems so he began offering eye exams to kindergartners in Alabama and later expanded to Mississippi. Those exams are now state wide in both states.

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The pilot program deals with providing qualifying children with poor eyesight with devices that can help them function in society. On Friday, 10 children from Pearl River and Hancock counties were seen by the program and were provided with closed circuit televisions equipped with high resolution cameras. The $2,500 devices will be taken home by the children and used to help them see the world, or what will fit under the device.

The cameras are capable of displaying images in varying color modes, which help certain children see certain objects and text better, Haddox said. For outdoor uses ,each child will be given handheld telescopes and magnifiers, which can be used in classrooms.

Eye exams for children in grades 2, 4 and 6 for Hancock and Pearl River County schools is part of the pilot program.

A donation provided by local organizations to Sight Savers will help children with sight problems get the help they need, from glasses to surgery, Haddox said. He expects to be able to help about 2,500 children with the donation.

Typically, the children who need the CCTVs are the ones who have an eye ailment that can not be corrected. Those children who do have a correctable eye problem will be the ones who receive surgery, Haddox said. For those who have an eye disease that is incurable, the CCTV and other hand held devices will help them use the vision they have to the best of their ability.

“For that child, that changes their lives because they could see things that they couldn’t see before,” Haddox said.

Funding to provide the CCTVs and eye exams was provided by a $70,000 Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation donation and a Poplarville Rotary Club donation of $30,000.