Montecito Teen Launches Vision Screening Program
Mason Lender, a Montecito resident and Santa Barbara High School senior, is the founder of Eyes for Success, an organization formed by a group of high school students who interface with community agencies to spread the message about early vision screening. The group produces and distributes written materials to local agencies and schools, volunteers to read the book it created to preschool and elementary school-aged students, and assists during community health fairs and vision screenings.
Mason first became aware of early vision issues when his cousin suffered from learning delays, anxiety, and psychosomatic issues due to undiagnosed nearsightedness. He was alarmed by the host of associated negative impacts the vision issue had on his cousin and surprised by how quickly they resolved once she used glasses to correct her nearsightedness. Mason sought to understand more about early vision problems and learned that his cousin’s story is not unusual. He discovered that children often don’t realize they can’t see well and it can be difficult for parents or teachers to note that the child is having issues. He learned that the unrecognized vision issues, if not corrected early, can progress and may lead to additional vision complications, learning delays, emotional problems, and social issues. Mason also discovered that undiagnosed vision issues are more common in minority and low-income populations.
He sought out the help of Dr. Mark Silverberg, M.D., FAAP FAAO. Dr. Silverberg organized a summer internship with Mason last year, so the teen could explore ways to increase early vision screenings and parents’ follow-up in Santa Barbara. The summer work with Dr. Silverberg continued over the next year and will culminate in the “Early Vision Screening is Vital” campaign that begins on Wednesday, August 1. Coinciding with the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s August Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, Eyes for Success is distributing materials and organizing educational outreach activities for the Santa Barbara community about the signs of early vision issues. The materials cover the impact of early vision issues on development and learning, and how to access no-cost and reduced-cost vision screenings in the Santa Barbara area.
In addition, the group is releasing a bilingual children’s book called Eyes for Success; A Story About the Importance of Early Vision Screening that details the story of a young girl with undiagnosed vision problems who has a vision screening in school. The book is written for children aged 4 to 8 and can be used as preparation for a vision screening or discussion after a vision screening. The book contains questions and answers for teachers and parents about vision issues in early childhood. The pamphlet and book will be distributed to interested local pediatrician offices, neighborhood clinics, preschools, elementary schools, after-school programs, and agencies that conduct vision screenings in Santa Barbara County.
Agencies or groups wishing to organize a reading of the book, request materials, or obtain additional information can contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.