BY RICK KAZMER
United Way of the Laurel Highlands
Long division can be tough to learn.
It can be an even greater challenge if you can't see what your teacher is writing on the chalkboard or pointing to on the digital screen.
Fortunately, Amy Baglio is at work in Somerset County to identify vision disorders at an early age, saving children years of squinting at blurry images on a distant screen or board.
Baglio is the community outreach representative for the Somerset County Blind Association. She is also the resident vision screener, traveling to test the vision of children from preschool to 12th grade throughout the county, about 2,300 kids a year.
"Early childhood eye detection is one of the best things for starting school," Baglio said.
The Children's Vision Screening Program is one of the services the United Way of the Laurel Highlands funds at one of its 24 Partner Agencies in Somerset and Cambria Counties.
Baglio also completes a color-blind test as part of her time with children. The association has low-cost eyeglass options for families who can't afford eyewear at the optometrist's office.
The vision screening, on average, takes about 30 seconds. Baglio has a unique camera that she holds in front of the child's face. It focuses on the child's pupils, taking a picture.
The device is able to determine precise information about the child's vision, including near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and lazy eye.
Once the test is complete, a report is printed out for the parent if a referral to the eye doctor is recommended.
If needed, Baglio encourages the parent to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor.
Her findings are confirmed by the optometrist 99% of the time, she said.
The process includes some fun for younger children, including a puppet named Seewell.
She has tested children as young as 6 months, she said.
"It's an exam and education," she said of the work.