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Local Lions Club screens area children’s hearing and vision

(EN Photo / Zack Rothman)

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Four days a week, sometimes five, Joe Jackson and his wife, Liz — along with the help of FGCU students — wheel a big red wagon filled with vision screeners and hearing tests into preschools all across Lee County.

This big red wagon has helped well over a thousand visually and audibly impaired children overcome the obstacles inhibiting their ability to learn.

Sponsored by the Lions Clubs of Bonita Beach and Cape Coral, the Jacksons have been able diagnose over 1,500 kids — 1,100 from January to March, — with disorders that may have otherwise lingered and impeded their academic progress.

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The Lions Club International has more than 46,000 clubs consisting of more than 1.4 million members worldwide, making it the  largest service club organization in the world.

“If the kid can’t see or can’t hear, they can’t learn,” Joe Jackson said. “The earlier you can address it, the better.”

According to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, nearly 3 percent of children are visually impaired or blind, with amblyopia or “lazy eye” found in 2 percent of children.

Refractive errors are the most common vision problems for children, including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism.

On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control estimates that two to three children of every 1,000 born in the United States have “a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears” while five out of six children have otitis media (an ear infection) by the time they are 3 years old.

The Jacksons saw many visually and audibly impaired children in their time as school psychologists for 39 years in the Miami-Dade School District. Joe and Liz Jackson are now retired in Bonita Beach.

Accompanied by FGCU students each week, the group usually sets up shop in a relatively larger classroom somewhere in the preschool.

Once it arrives, the group unloads the wagon into four stations — a hearing test for kids older than 4 years old using the audiometer, a hearing test for those younger than 4 years old using the Otoacoustic Emissions machine (OAE), also known as a Ero-Scan, an eye test using a spot vision screener and a laptop for Joe Jackson to input the data into a spread sheet.

Debra-Semone Bernard, a student at FGCU, has been helping the Jacksons since the start of the semester as part of her Civic Engagement class.

“About a month ago, we were screening a kid — I think he was 2 — and he wouldn’t cooperate,” Bernard said. “They tried so many times, but eventually, they just gave up. Then, he ran over to me and jumped in my lap and made me do it. Everyone was so shocked. It was an eye-opening moment.”

To get involved with the Lions Club on campus, contact THE Big C or its adviser, FGCU professor Courtney Satkoski, who works in partnership with the organization.

Another opportunity to aid the visually impaired on campus is volunteering with the Lions Club’s partner, Radio Reading Service, which reads local papers to the blind from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. weekdays at WGCU in the Myra Janco Daniels Public Media Center, formerly known as the broadcast building.


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