Seeing is believing

Neil Schweikart was unaware he could not see the way he should.

As a 3-year-old, he really had no frame of reference for how his eyes were supposed to focus on objects.

But thanks to a vision screening conducted at Neil’s preschool one day last year by North Central Sight Services, he was able to receive some help he really needed.

Neil, an energetic kid, had showed no signs of not seeing well, although he sometimes complained his eyes hurt.

At play at the family’s Montoursville area home, he wasn’t one to stumble or fall down.

“He didn’t seem to have a problem,” said Neil’s mother, Susan.

She and Neil’s father, Darren, did notice that one of their son’s eyes would often turn inward, however.

And it was something that North Central Sight Services Prevention of Blindness Coordinator Mary Crawley picked up on when she came to the pre-school to conduct vision screenings of children.

“The one eye was turning inward,” she recalled.

Crawley noted that before before she even saw Neil, it was assumed he wasn’t using both of his eyes and his right eye was shut down completely.

The SureSight Vision Screener is a five-second automatic test that detects common vision problems in children including near and farsightedness, astigmatism, and anisometropia (unequal power between eyes).

“Children don’t generally know how they are supposed to see,” Crawley said. “They don’t have any reference. That is why they do a lot these screenings.”

Crawley had Neil referred to the North Central Sight Services Functional Vision Clinic where he was diagnosed with esotropia and farsightedness.

Esotropia describes an inward turning eye. A more common form, accommodative esotropia, often occurs in farsighted children ages 2 and older.

Farsightedness is the inability to focus on objects close up.

In some cases, surgery is needed to treat esotropia.

Darren noted that at one point a patch was put on Neil’s one eye.

Eventually, he was fitted with bifocal glasses that will help reverse his condition.

Crawley noted that contrary to popular belief, it’s not altogether unusual for a child to wear bifocal glasses to correct vision problems.

“The earlier you catch something like this the better,” she said.

At a critical stage in Neil’s educational development when he will soon begin learning to read, it was important to rectify his vision problem, according to Neil’s father.

“It’s nice they found it early,” he said.

Neil will continue to have his progress checked at North Central Sight Services.