How the equipment will help students
Screenings at school don’t only fulfill a requirement. They have a real ability to affect students’ quality of life. Vision and hearing issues can have adverse effects on educational and social development.
“Most of these kids don’t go to a physician,” says Julie Shadwick, nurse for the Niangua R-V School District. “This is their first screening for any kind of deficit for any age.”
If concerns are detected, then information is passed along to parents.
“What we can do at that point is make a referral to the parents and say, ‘It looks like they’re having a little trouble. You need to get them in,’ and then just keep following up and hope that they can get them in and get them tested.”
Shadwick says around 80 students will be immediately impacted by the equipment. She tests all students in pre-K through third grade annually, as well as students with an individualized education plan. She’d also like to eventually expand screenings to middle schoolers.
Ultimately, the equipment could impact any of the district’s approximately 350 students.
Shadwick, who is in her second year at Niangua, left a career with a local health system to serve at Niangua, where her family has roots. Upon arriving in Niangua, she found that the previous screening equipment and systems posed significant challenges.
“This is just hearsay, but I was told that one of the nurses before me bought the old one off of eBay,” she says of the audio screening system. “The headsets, I guess, never worked. One side only worked, so they would have to flip it over on the kid. I could never get it to work properly with the headphones and you can’t switch out headphones. They have to be calibrated to this machine.”
Another challenge tied to younger students, who didn’t always understand what the system — which was based on tones — was asking from them.
“It was very hard for little ones to discern what you wanted them to do,” Shadwick says.
The new system integrates sounds corresponding to a chart of kid-friendly images, such as a hot dog, an ice cream cone, a rainbow and a firetruck.
“It’s for kids that don’t know the alphabet and kind of have a hard time following directions,” Shadwick says. “It goes through in different decibels and asks them to point to the symbol. It’s so much easier for younger children to do this.”
The vision screening system, too, had its challenges. The district used the Snellen Eye Chart — think of the chart of Es in different directions and sizes — but it only tested for near-sightedness. The new system tests for that, but also for far-sightedness, color-blindness and if students’ eyes are wavering.
“A lot of kids’ eyes do that,” Shadwick says of the latter condition. “It’s called nystagmus, and it will pick that up. It will pick up if they have a lazy eye, and one is not getting the same perception as the other one. They can correct that with glasses.
“The equipment just does a lot wider range than just doing the Snellen chart where we’re saying, ‘What’s the letter here?’”