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Students undergo free screening for vision, hearing and Type 2 diabetes

Healthy students make better learners.

That is why The Varnett Public School is working again with Pine Woods Screening Services to provide screening for hearing, vision and Type 2 diabetes.

Students at the Southwest Campus are undergoing free screening this week at the campus library. The Northeast Campus finished its screening in late August; East Campus last week.

“We want to ensure that our children can hear for instruction and to be able to see clearly,” said Nurse Karen Allen, who works at Southwest. The parents of children who do not pass the tests are immediately notified so they can consult a specialist or pediatrician.

State law requires that all children enrolled for the first time in school or licensed facilities - or who meet certain grade criteria - must be screened or have a professional examination for possible vision and hearing problems. This does not necessarily mean that schools must conduct the tests but "Varnett has taken the initiative to screen students for nearly two decades," Ms. Allen said.

The screening applies to 4-year-olds in PreK, kindergartners, first-, third-, and fifth graders and for new students entering second and fourth grades. Pine Woods will return to Varnett later in the school year to screen those who missed testing the first time.

If students do not pass testing, “we give parents an immediate heads-up,” Ms. Allen said.  Roughly 20 percent of children tested for hearing and vision are referred for further testing or remediation, she said.

Elsa Wei, a Pine Woods screener working at Varnett this week, said 20/40 vision for four-year-olds is passable “because their eyes are still developing.” Children five and older must have 20/30 vision to pass.

Pine Woods also screens for acanthosis nigricans/Type 2 diabetes by checking the back of the neck for a condition in which the skin thickens and darkens in places. Acanthosis nigricans may be a sign of a more serious condition such as pre-diabetes, according to the healthline website. The most effective treatments focus on finding and resolving medical conditions at the root of the problem.

Ms. Wei estimated that about 10 percent of children tested shows signs of acanthosis nigricans. Research shows that the frequency of acanthosis nigricans vary between ethic groups and appear in 1 percent of Caucasians, 6 percent of Latinos, 13 percent of African Americans and 34 percent of Native Americans.

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