Blind World

Warning signs of possible eye trouble in children.

September 23, 2004.

Last year, Michelle Marshall and her kids wandered over to a vision screening table at the annual Kidz Explore event in downtown Omaha. The agency, Prevent Blindness Nebraska, had a table there along with screeners and eye charts to do simple eye tests.

Morriah, 8, took a turn and recalls, "When they told me to cover my left eye, I couldn't see or read the top letter."

The screeners instructed Morriah's Mom to make an appointment with an eye doctor.

And then, the frightening revelation.

"She was legally blind in both eyes," Michelle told me.

Morriah's vision was 20/200. The second grader was learning to read in school and wasn't excelling. Looking back, and feeling terrible about not catching the problem, Michelle put all the pieces together.

"She would always sit really close to the TV. She was constantly rubbing her eyes. They would water a lot," Michelle said.

In the eye doctor's office, looking through lenses, Morriah recalls finally being able to see clearly.

"She said, 'Mom, you're so beautiful! She looked at me and said, 'You have freckles just like I do,'" Michelle said, recounting the story.

Michelle's own eyes tear up when she talks about how much of the world her daughter missed because she couldn't see clearly.

"She had never really seen my face," Michelle said.

The non-profit agency, Prevent Blindness Nebraska, screens more than 3,500 preschoolers each year. They offer free eye screenings in licensed preschools and day-cares. Experts say one in 20 preschoolers and one in 4 school-aged children have vision problems.

Executive Director Kim Schillito told me it's essential to diagnose these problems early so children don't lose their vision.

"When a child has lazy eye or misalignment of the eyes, the brain doesn't like the image and it starts shutting it down and the child is normally legally blind in that eye," Schillito said.

Kim outlines the warning signs of possible eye trouble in children:

Rubs eyes excessively;
Shuts or covers one eye;
Has difficulty reading;
Blinks more than usual;
Complains of dizziness, headaches, or nausea;
A child who appears cross-eyed, or who has misaligned eyes should also see an eye doctor.

After being fitted with eyeglasses, Morriah's vision is 20/40. Her very first day with the new spectacles proved to be telling. Michelle and Morriah were walking from the car to the house when Morriah had a revelation.

"I get it! The leaves are ON the trees and they FALL to the ground!"

The little girl had never seen leaves on trees before and was baffled about where they came from.

Morriah is now an excellent student. She attends St. Thomas Moore School where she's in third grade. And she has advice for other kids with new glasses.

"Just act like you're a normal person and don't act like your eyes can't see well because you're not perfect. No one's perfect," she said.

Copyright 2004 by

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