‘KanLovKids’ state program gives new hope to children with low vision and their families

July 27, 2012

David Nelson, O.D., checks a child’s reading speed and print size using an MN Read Card.

KanLovKids is an initiative of the Kansas Optometric Association (KOA), Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) and Kansas Lions Sight Foundation (KLSF) that provides low vision evaluation and rehabilitation services to children from birth to 22 years.

With much of Kansas being rural, some residents may have to travel for two hours or more for basic health care and even longer for specialized care such as low vision.

The KanLovKids program is able to provide low vision rehabilitation services to children and their families close to home.

The KSSB serves as the KanLovKids program’s anchor organization, and through its outreach department implemented a statewide Low Vision (LV) and Pediatric Low Vision Collaboration Clinic (PLVCC), conducted by 11 doctors at various locations across the state.

Joseph Maino, O.D., assesses a student’s ability to read a school worksheet.

These 11 doctors have significant experience working with children with low vision, including those with additional disabilities.

The clinics assist families and service providers in better understanding low vision eye conditions in children.

Diagnostic services, glasses, low vision devices, and individualized accommodations and intervention strategies are provided, and low vision devices are specifically prescribed for near (reading), intermediate (computer), and distance (reading blackboard, street signs) activities of daily living.

Kendall Krug, O.D., tests the near vision of a student who benefitted from extra lighting.

“Children with low vision face special challenges in school, at home, and in the community, where great emphasis is placed on learning through sight,” said Anne S. Nielsen, Ph.D., KSSB outreach coordinator. “Designed by a community of practice members, including low vision optometrists, ophthalmologists, the KOA, Kansas Lions and the KSSB, the KanLovKids program addresses these challenges.”

Giving hope

In an effort to support this program, a KanLovKids doctor, Kendall Krug, O.D., developed a secure database using statewide low vision evaluation forms that were completed by the KanLovKids doctors on all children.

This database contributed greatly toward the program’s success, but it could not be accessed through the Web.

To help with this problem, the KOA was awarded a $4,000 Healthy Eyes Healthy People® (HEHP) grant in April 2012 for improvements in database access.

Kristina Post, O.D., fits a student with his new distance vision device.

“In Kansas, there are 1,054 children, birth through grade 12, who are legally blind. Of these, only 100 will attend the KSSB in Kansas City,” Dr. Krug said. “Thanks to the KanLovKids program, 90 percent of visually impaired students are able to stay in their home school district and have access to low vision optometrists, aids and techniques to help them lead normal lives.”

HEHP grant funding further leverages the success of the database by making it readily available in a Web-based format.

Linda Lawrence, M.D., uses the Hiding Heidi Low Contrast Face Test to assess a child’s facial recognition ability.

This ensures accurate and widespread collection of data, while increasing and improving reporting capabilities for the entire KanLovKids effort, no matter where children are receiving a low vision evaluation in the state.

The KanLovKids program makes it affordable for children with low vision to be treated. The price for a low vision evaluation is $250.

KanLovKids providers offer a $100 discount, the KLSF contributes $100 toward each evaluation and school districts are billed $50 per child and are expected to cover recommended corrective devices, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“This program is important because low vision evaluations are not covered by medical insurance providers,” Dr. Krug noted.

Jim Lawlor, a certified orientation and mobility specialist, helps a child try out her monocular vision as part of the low vision evaluation.

Before, if a child’s parents didn’t have the financial resources, a child with low vision often would not receive the treatment and technology to see.

Dr. Krug continued, “Vision contributes 83 percent to learning. Getting access to corrective technology is important because 75 percent of children in Kansas who are legally blind or visually impaired will be able to read using telescopes, lighted magnifiers and other adaptive technology.”

However, the problem is finding the money.

“This program allows us to reach more kids and give parents hope, despite school budget cuts,” Dr. Krug said.

According to Todd Fleischer, KOA director of communications and KanLovKids HEHP grant collaborator, “The KanLovKids’ database is a critical component as it allows the program to collect significant information for understanding and helping this underserved population of children. The goal of the database is to allow all team members to have access to the vision information on each child, so that recommendations for devices and training are available for Teachers of students who are Visually Impaired (TVIs), Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) and special educators who work with the children in school or at home.”

Growing community

Since the KanLovKids program began in 2007, 548 children have been evaluated, with more added every year.

In the 2011-2012 school year, 153 children were evaluated and 550 parents and team members attended and participated.

Optometrists, special educators, teachers, and specialists working together with low vision children and their families, with support from the KSSB, KOA, KLSF and Lions Clubs International Foundation, make the KanLovKids program and its Web-accessible database a great example for other states in need of a low vision program.

To learn more, contact Todd Fleischer at the Kansas Optometric Association, 785-232-0225.

Special thanks to these KanLovKids low vision ODs for making a difference in children’s lives:

Robert Hoch, O.D., Garden City
Shane Kannarr, O.D., Pittsburg
Kendall Krug, O.D., Hays
Linda Lawrence, M.D., Salina
Joseph Maino, O.D., Kansas City
David Nelson, O.D., Topeka
Kristina Post, O.D., Wichita
William Park, O.D., Wichita
Mark Wahlmeier, O.D., Colby
Dawn Williams, O.D., Garden City
Todd Zerger, O.D., Salina

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: