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Improving Vision Screening for Students with Special Needs Using the Spot™ Vision Screener

The Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) in Pasadena, Texas, has more than 55,000 students across 65 schools. The district is a champion of innovative educational learning initiatives supported by advanced programs and technology-driven resources that foster student success.

One way to improve student success for the Pasadena ISD was to implement a vision screening program. Elementary schools around the United States implement vision screening programs in their districts with the intention to identify children who may have undetected vision problems.

Uncorrected vision disorders can impact a child’s cognitive, emotional, neurological and physical development, potentially resulting in behavior problems, interference with early literacy and learning, and even permanent vision loss.1

April Weisedel, Chief Nursing Officer at Pasadena ISD, was struggling with chart-based vision screening methods and reached out to the Pasadena Lions Club to get more information on instrument-based vision screeners. Traditional methods can be difficult to administer, especially when screening students who are non-verbal, have developmental delays or speak English as a second language. "We needed a solution for our special needs children who couldn’t conform to traditional testing that consisted of being able to grasp small objects and track objects with their eyes, among other gross indicators,” says April.

Vision screening for children with disabilities is critical as it may diagnose problems that can be treated to improve the child’s quality of life. When April showed the Pasadena Lions Club how the school district was conducting vision screenings, they were shocked and saddened, and instantly agreed to purchase a Spot™ Vision Screener for the district’s use. The Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener is an instrument-based vision screener that can help users quickly and easily detect vision issues on patients from six months of age through adult, allowing for faster exams and higher completion rates.2 The Spot Vision Screener detects common vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, anisometropia, strabismus and anisocoria.2

After receiving the Spot Vision Screener, April traveled to one of the elementary school campuses to examine a group of students with special needs. “We were able to screen all students with special needs in all grade levels in less than 30 minutes. This normally takes a week to complete if we rely on traditional testing,” says April.

During the vision screening, April came across a nonverbal fourth grader who was especially difficult to get a capture. The student was swaying his head and moving in circles and unable to keep his focus on the Spot Vision Screener. April and a few other teachers devised a plan. “The teacher who has been with him since his enrollment six years ago was able to get him to sit still in a chair, while the paraprofessional made noises to get him to look at the Spot Vision Screener,” says April. Within seconds, they received his results, indicating a recommendation for a complete eye exam with notes of astigmatism in one eye and myopia in the other.

“The teacher who has been with the student for six years couldn’t believe the results,” says April. All this time, the teacher and his parents thought the boy was clumsy, but he had significant vision loss that had gone undetected. It wasn’t that this boy was clumsy, he was having difficulty seeing his surroundings. “As a nurse, I completely understand. When children have multiple diagnoses and are nonverbal, it is easy to overlook what we all take for granted,” says April.

Since the Pasadena Lions Club donated the first Spot Vision Screener, the Pasadena ISD has collected local funds to purchase an additional five Spot Vision Screeners. The Pasadena Lions Club also purchases additional Spot™ Vision Screeners for the school district every year. In total, they screen approximately six thousand children annually with the Spot Vision Screener.

The time savings for nurses by implementing Spot Vision Screener cannot be understated. And equally important, the school is getting more detail as to what is going on with each child's eyes, which has significantly improved the school’s ability to refer children with a vision abnormality. "This means our children are getting the vision services they need,” says April.

“I believe the Spot Vision Screener is the greatest addition in a very long time to our tools as school nurses,” says April.


1. Eyes on Learning. Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed January 22, 2019.

2. Welch Allyn. Spot Vision Screener. . Accessed January 3, 2019.