PARKERSBURG - A national program is working to increase the number of infants who receive vision screenings in an attempt to catch such problems at an earlier stage.
Dr. Gary Veronneau is coordinator of the West Virginia InfantSEE program, part of InfantSEE, a national public health program for infants provided by members of the American Optometric Association.
Veronneau, who operates an optometry practice in Rainelle, W.Va., was in Parkersburg on Tuesday to talk about the InfantSEE program with local pediatricians, early intervention specialists and optometrists to raise awareness about the program.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Dr. Gary Veronneau is coordinator of the West Virginia InfantSEE program, part of a national public health program aimed at encouraging vision screening for infants from 6-12 months.
"It's about how we can work together to prevent different types of vision problems that occur in children in that very young age group, to foster the most normal visual development possible," he said.
The InfantSEE program is aimed at encouraging vision screenings for children from ages 6-12 months, with 9 months as the optimal age. Parents are urged to have their children screened during that period and one of the things InfantSEE provides is support for those who can't afford the screening themselves.
There are no income criteria to participate in InfantSEE, Veronneau added.
The national program is five years old, with about 8,000 optometrists participating nationwide. About 76 doctors in 33 West Virginia communities participate in the program, including several in the Parkersburg area. More information is about the program at www.infantsee.org, including a doctor locator feature, or by calling 888-396-EYES.
The program is also seeking to provide information to more pediatricians and other early intervention specialists who can make referrals, he said.
"The biggest part of the program is that optometrists provide no-charge eye exams - complete dilated comprehensive exams - for infants. This is a public health initiative, it's not billed to insurance companies or to government agencies. It's just to help kids get a good start in life," Veronneau said.
The most common problems are refractive errors like near- and far-sightedness and astigmatism. In addition to other problems, the screening also looks at amblyoplia, more commonly known as lazy eye. Veronneau said it is the leading cause of permanent visual disability in people under 20 but is also treatable, especially when identified early.
Among the other goals of InfantSEE is to educate the public about the need for early intervention, so the program is working with West Virginia Birth to Three.
Helen Wilson, regional coordinator with West Virginia Birth to Three in Parkersburg, said her agency sees the InfantSEE program as being extremely important. The agency works with children under the age of 3 who either have a delay in one or more areas of their development, or may be at risk of possibly having delays in the future.
"We encourage parents and care providers to take their kids to see an optometrist in order go get their child screened, just like we do for speech or motor skills or cognitive abilities," she said.