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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Vision screenings help San Carlos grandkids see clearly

three kids smiling and wearing glasses

Rachel Long and her husband Jeff of San Carlos started raising several of their grandchildren a few years ago. They have seven altogether ranging in age from age 1 to 12 and are happy to have the second chance that raising grandchildren gives them. 

Long learned of the importance of early developmental and sensory screenings a few years ago while attending a local community event. The grandmother already had concerns with a few of her grandkids squinting. 

The health educator from the developmental and sensory screening program in San Carlos shared with Long that they could even come to her home and do the screenings, which made it easier. The program is offered across the region. The First Things First San Carlos Apache Region funds developmental, hearing and vision screenings to improve the number of screenings for young children in the region. 

Research shows that a child’s vision starts to develop from the time they are born until kindergarten, so it is critical to identify issues with eye health and vision development at a young age when problems are easier to correct with early treatment. Especially since young children rarely complain about vision problems because they believe everyone sees the world as they do.

The health educator screened the children, who were all under age 5 at the time, and referred the family for exams at the local Peridot eye clinic, which is part of the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation. The exams resulted in all of the children needing glasses.

“I am so thankful for the developmental and sensory program because without them I would not have known they couldn’t see,” Long said. 

Mariah, who is 8 now, started drawing beautifully after she got her glasses and Long thinks she will be an artist. Mariah tells her grandmother, “I like my glasses, I can see now!” 

Joseph, who is 7, says excitedly, “Grandma, I can see the pictures in my books now!” Eva, who is 5, says, “I like my glasses!”

“The kids all communicate more and are asking more questions now that they can see well,” Long said. “They seem to have much more confidence in themselves, as well.”

After seeing the success of getting the children’s vision screened, Long shares her family’s story with everyone. 

“I shared the information with my Pastor David Miles of the American Indian Church and Pastor Miles allowed the developmental and sensory screening program to offer screenings at the church so parents and caregivers could easily get their kids screened,” she said. “I want all parents and caregivers to know that this program is available to our community and most importantly that they should get their children screened early.”

Long and her husband are learning right along with their grandkids. 

“With this second chance that Jeff and I have in raising our grandchildren we have learned to pay closer attention to the kids,” Long said. “Parents need to look for signs their children may need a little help and make sure that you get their screenings done early so they have the best possible chance of success.”

Veronica Gossett is a community outreach coordinator in the FTF San Carlos Apache Region. You can reach her at vgossett@firstthingsfirst.org​​.​

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