“Working to educate the community about the value of early childhood vision screening with the platform that Miss Colorado has provided me has been a very rewarding experience. By sharing my story, I hope I convince more people to support and participate in screening programs.”
Read more about Meredith’s Story in our today’s new blogpost.
I was born six weeks premature but it wasn’t until I was eight years old that my family and I realized that I had severe vision loss in my right eye. The discovery began when I was practicing my baton twirling, as I had done since age three, and as I threw the baton in the air it hit my left eye. As I kept closing and squeezing my left eye, I complained to my mom that I couldn’t see out of my right eye.
My parents took me to an ophthalmologist, and it was discovered that a congenital deformity had resulted in my having only about 75% of a lens on my right eye. At this point my eyes were done developing and the doctors revealed that I was not a candidate for a cadaver transplant.
This year, through my role as Miss Colorado, a member of the Lions Club International, and a relationship with Von’s Vision, I began advocating for early childhood vision screenings. Von’s Vision is NFL player Von Miller’s nonprofit organization (www.vonmiller.org) whose mission is to “provide low-income Denver children with the eye care and corrective eyewear they need to be their best in the classroom and in life.”
Colorado’s school screening programs, in collaboration with the Lions Club, use the Plusoptix device to conduct vision screenings in preschool- and elementary-age children. I visit schools and talk to the teachers and nurses about why this type of an instrument-based test is beneficial for children. I speak to primary care physicians and eye care providers about the importance of implementing screening programs in practice. When I was in elementary school, I learned to cheat the eye test that was used. If the Plusoptix technology existed then, my condition could have been diagnosed earlier.
Through these partnerships, we are working to build on the foundation of making sure kids have yearly eye examinations, and to emphasize the importance of getting follow-up care when it is needed. The Lions Club and Von’s Vision help connect low-income patients to services, and work to ensure that parents and kids understand that follow-up is crucial so that nothing is missed. We try to make it fun and use prizes and games to help them not to be fearful of a doctor visit.
I visit with kids in their classes, and I talk to them about how important their vision is to their ability to learn and achieve their goals. I let them know to speak up and to tell their teachers and parents if they have problems seeing the board in class or reading. A key aspect of my ability to relate to them is that I wear glasses. Often kids do not want to wear glasses because they are worried about appearing “nerdy.” They see me, with my title, and they think that glasses can be cool!
When I tell kids the story about my eyes, they are very curious and surprised. I explain that I have very good vision out of my left eye, but my right eye doesn’t work as well. Some will then want to share their vision issues with me and we make an instant connection. Kids who wear glasses want to talk about it.
Working to educate the community about the value of early childhood vision screening with the platform that Miss Colorado has provided me has been a very rewarding experience. By sharing my story, I hope I convince more people to support and participate in screening programs.
– Meredith Winnefeld, Miss Colorado –
Today it is possible to conduct Vision Screenings in children starting at the age of 6 months. This is so meaningful, because the sooner a Vision disorder is detected, the better it can be treated and amblyopia can be prevented.
For more information about the Plusoptix Vision Screener, click on the link: Plusoptix Vision Screener.