How instrument-based Vision Screening helped to start the OHSU Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program

Did you know currently 1 out of every 5 children is born with some kind of vision disorder? If not diagnosed before age 5, vision disorders can cause children to have difficulty with learning, self-confidence and even career choices.  In order to help children with diagnosis and treatment, the goal of the Oregon Elks Children’s Eye Clinic is to provide some of the best eye care in the world. – An article by Lee Stark, RN, BSN

New $20 Million Clinic to open in December 2020

The Oregon Elks pledged $20 million toward the construction of the new Elks Children’s Eye Clinic to open in December 2020. With the longtime, generous support of the Oregon State Elks Association, the OHSU Eye Clinic, according to their website, offers:

  • Pediatric eye specialists with a broad range of expertise and special training who love working with children.
  • The most advanced technology available anywhere for diagnosing and treating eye disease.
  • Experts at diagnosing and treating common eye diseases as well as complicated eye conditions.  
  • A world-class facility for the treatment of eye diseases that makes kids feel at home.
  • In addition to the eye clinic, the Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program screens thousands of children each year for free.
Oregon State Elks Association President Mary Williams uses a Plusoptix device tot check the vision of Alayna, a four-year-old girl, during a vision screening event organized by OHSU Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program.
Oregon State Elks Association President Mary Williams uses a Plusoptix device to check the vision of Alayna, a four-year-old girl, during a vision screening event organized by OHSU Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program.

The Oregon State Elks Association partner with OHSU Preschool Program through Head Starts and Public Libraries.

The Oregon State Elks Association provides an invaluable service by participating in the OHSU Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program. Every year, approximately 8,000 students are screened statewide using Instrument-based vision screeners. Of those, 700 are referred for a vision disorder.

Important facts about OHSU Preschool Program:

  • This program is instrumental in identifying and making sure children throughout the state are seen by an eye doctor. In addition to the benefits to the children themselves, these screenings and eye exams help researchers understand and develop new treatments for children’s vision disorders such as amblyopia or “lazy eye”. For more information on the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic and Casey Eye Institute, see The Elks Magazine, March 2020.
  • Joannah Vaughan, MBA is the founder and director of the Preschool Vision Screening Program. Since 2003, Joannah has developed and managed the screening program. In addition, she presents vision screening research on an international level.
  • Evidence based research shows thatusing instrument-based vision screening for infants and preschoolers is the best method.
Lee Stark at Joannah Vaughen at Oregon Elks Children's Eye clinic talking about early eye care in children.
Lee Stark from Plusoptix and Joannah Vaughen at Oregon Elks Children’s Eye clinic

How Easy is it Work with Instrument-based Plusoptix Vision Screeners?

New technology, as well as the child-friendly product design, make instrument-based vision screeners very easy to use. With a child-friendly iconic smiley face and a warble sound to attract infants, children and babies, they are not afraid of the experience. 

In the picture you can see all three Plusoptix Vision Screener models that enables also inexperienced users to conduct an early eye care in children.
Plusoptix offers three Vision Screener product models, that enables a user to conduct an early vision screening in infants, children and babies.

In addition to that, it only takes a second to capture their image. After pushing the start button, the results “Pass” or “Refer are shown on the screen along with the reason for the referral to the eye doctor. This is also shown on the printed, full page measurement report, as well.

There is no more guessing what the child is being referred for because the instrument-based vision screener tells you. Parents are more likely to follow through with taking their child to the eye doctor when they know what the vision problem might be.

Instrument-based vision screening in comparison to traditional vision screening

When compared to traditional vision screening, the instrument-based vision screener reduces the amount of time it takes to vision screen large numbers of children from days to hours.

In addition, children who are uncooperative, have English as a second language, are afraid or have special needs are now able to be screened.

Finally, depending on what your needs are, the instrument-based vision screeners come in different models: either stationary or portable, either with or without network connection.

The importance of Vision Screening programs

Children with vision problems are often not detected until they start school. Delayed diagnosis can lead to permanent vision disorders or even blindness. Because children’s eyes are still developing at a young age, some vision disorders can be corrected only with early treatment. 

Annual vision screenings for preschoolers is vital to catching and correcting early vision disorders such as “amblyopia” or lazy eye. Therefore, a vision screening should at best take place before the first birthday.

The boy with brown green eyes should take part in an early care to check if he has a vision disorder.
It’s obvious that this young boy does not see clearly – he should take part in an early eye care as soon as possible.

What is Amblyopia or “Lazy Eye”?    

Amblyopia is the medical term for the childhood eye disorder called” lazy eye”It is a neurological condition in the brain. According to WebMD, “it happens when the vision of one of your child’s eyes doesn’t develop like it should. If it isn’t treated early, your child’s brain will learn to ignore the blurry image that comes from that eye and could harm her vision permanently.”[1]. Amblyopia is the most common cause of childhood blindness. 

How Can Amblyopia be treated?

The goal of Amblyopia treatment is to force the child’s brain to start using the weak eye.  After the diagnosis, the problem will need to be corrected with either glasses, patching, drops or sometime, surgery in the case of cataracts or strabismus. The kind of treatment will depend on the age of the child, how soon the problem was caught; how well the treatment is tolerated and how long the treatment must last for correction. 

How can Amblyopia be prevented?

The key to preventing Amblyopia is to catch it early in a child’s lifetime; preferably between ages 1 to 3 year old and start treatment right away.  Because young children are preliterate, visual acuity screening is not possible.

Red Reflex testing with Plusoptix Vision Screeners

Pediatricians rely on Red Reflex Testing for infants and toddlers, but this can be a challenging subjective skill with an uncooperative child. The latest technology to rule out Amblyopia and other possible vision disorders is Instrument-based vision screeners with the Transillumination Test capabilities. For more information, go to the Plusoptix Fact Sheet – April 2019.

AAP Policy statement recommends instrument-based Vision Screening

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement in January 2016 lowering the age of vision screening to between 12 months and 3 years of age until acuity can be tested directly. 

Evaluating a child’s vision at a very early age and continued throughout childhood, using validated techniques is an effective method to detecting and treating preventable vision disorders. To read the full AAP policy statement, go to PEDIATRICS Vol137, number 1, January 2016. 

What are Causes of Amblyopia?

Amblyopia may start when vision in one eye is better than the other.  If this continues untreated for months or years, the child’s blurry vision will get worse. There may not be any outward visible signs of vision problems. And the child doesn’t recognize it because they have always seen the world this way. 

There is a critical window of opportunity to correct the child’s blurry vision before it becomes permanent; usually before ages of 7 to 10. Using instrument–based vision screeners, children as young as 5 months can be first screened for the six most common vision disorders which may lead to amblyopia: 

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Unequal refractive errors (anisometropia)
  • Blurry focus (astigmatism)
  • Crossed eyes, misalignment (strabismus)
  • Different pupil sizes (aniscoria)
This graphic shows all prevalent vision disorders that can be detected in an early eye care with a Plusoptix device.
Detect the most prevalent vision disorders that may lead to the development of amblyopia (lazy eye).


The Oregon State Elks Association and the OHSU Eye Clinic are an excellent example of community organizations working together to help prevent children’s vision disorders in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, the Preschool Vision Screening Program helps improve the lives of hundreds of children with referral for treatment and diagnosis each year.

Using instrument-based vision screeners, evidence-based research will continue to improve and refine vision screening methods. Currently, instrument-based vision screeners are reliable, accurate, easy to use, child friendly and can detect amblyopia in a second. By providing quality vision care to children across the state, the Oregon State Elks Association shows that “Elks Care – Elks Share.”

Did you like our blogpost ?

…then do not hesitate to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Co. If you want to learn more about instrument-based vision screening with Plusoptix, refer to our Vision Screening website.

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