SEEING 20/20

October 02, 2001 11:00 pm
VISION QUEST: Bill Pieper, of La Grande Breakfast Lions, adminisers a vision test Tuesday to Central School sixth-grader Rachael Livingston. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
VISION QUEST: Bill Pieper, of La Grande Breakfast Lions, adminisers a vision test Tuesday to Central School sixth-grader Rachael Livingston. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Many children in Union County will take what could be the most important tests of their lives this month.

The exams will not be graded. But they could help children bring home better report cards in the future.

The students are taking vision and hearing screening tests conducted by the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. The tests will be conducted at most Union County elementary schools through Oct. 18.

The tests are conducted in the 44-foot Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation trailer.

Most children seem excited about taking the tests.

They love it, said Richard Le Francis, the facilitator for the Oregon Lions Mobile Health Screening Unit.

The only children who are leery

of the screenings are those in

kindergarten.

The kindergartners are timid this time of year, Le Francis said.

He said that kindergartners can be tough to test because they often speak softly.

Sometimes you get a few who do not respond at all, Le Francis said.

A former school principal, Le Francis said that children with hearing and vision problems perform better in the classroom after their problems are corrected. This is one reason why it is important to detect problems early so children will not fall behind in school.

Dr. Trey Pettit, a La Grande ophthalmologist, said early detection of vision problems is critical since uncorrected conditions can lead to blindness. He listed a condition of hyperopia as an example. Hyperopia can be corrected with glasses, but if left untreated it can cause blindness in the problem eye.

Pettit said it is good that children are tested every year. One reason is that some children who cannot see well can sometimes trick those administering the test with the help from friends. These children are easier to find when tests are given every year.

The Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation conducts screenings annually in Union County for elementary school students. Last fall a total of 1,961 children were tested for vision problems in Union County. Some 232 of these children were found to have vision problems that needed to be corrected, said Amber Frey, development coordinator for the foundation.

Vision problems often found in the screenings of children are farsightedness and strabismus, a condition commonly called lazy eye.

A total of 1,944 children were tested for hearing problems in Union County last fall. Some 251 were determined to have hearing deficiencies.

Most of the children who have hearing problems already know it, Le Francis said.

The Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation covers the complete cost of the screenings. Chapters of Lions Clubs in Union County spend much time raising money for the foundation each year. Members of Union County Lions clubs are helping with the the vision and hearing tests now being conducted.

The Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation is represented in Union County, with Gary Tate of North Powder the chairperson of the foundations board of trustees.