When kids can see better, they can learn better. So Alcon, in partnership with the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) and a dedicated team of Eye Care Professionals (ECPs), is on a mission to provide comprehensive and continuous eye care to local students in need, at no charge. We sat down with Dr. Kendall Stout, OD, who is helping Alcon achieve this mission every day.
Eighty percent of classroom learning is visual.1 Yet, in 2021, one in five FWISD students failed their vision screening, and nearly half of the students that failed did not receive a follow-up exam.2
When probing into why there was no follow-up exam, Alcon found that access to eye care was a considerable obstacle. Barriers to quality eye care exist all over the world, including in our own backyard. Whether not being able to pay for a visit to the optometrist, lacking transportation, or not having adequate information to lean on, many families are in need of support to get their children the care they need to see clearly and be academically successful.
Determined to find a solution to provide access to eye care, Alcon joined forces with FWISD and ECPs in a first-of-its-kind partnership to open the Alcon Children’s Vision Center (Center) on the campus of a local elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas. The Center, led by Kendall Stout, OD, is a nonprofit, fully equipped clinic with dedicated ECPs, staff and technicians where students in need can conveniently receive comprehensive eye exams as well as prescription glasses for free.
A Fort Worth native, Dr. Stout has over seven years of first-hand experience witnessing how primary eye care can impact quality of life.
“Sometimes, when children have poor vision, they will be judged or labeled as being unable to pay attention, when they just can’t see properly,” Dr. Stout reflects. “Poor vision undoubtedly affects children’s behavior and development. They may seem uninterested, be less likely to participate, and be less confident, which can make them feel out of the loop.”
In one such situation, a high school soccer coach had concerns about one of his player’s vision, so he called Dr. Stout. The player, who had never received a vision exam before, was able to leverage the Center’s resources to receive eye care and a pair of glasses that finally allowed him to see the field properly.
“During the exam, it was clear that this student was not able to see, and it was made even more evident in the look on his face once he put on his first pair of glasses,” Dr. Stout recalls of the soccer player. “There is so much detail and beauty to see in the world, and we are able to provide that to students like this. The Center is a system intended to provide care to those who may not be able to get it, who don’t have the means or the knowledge to know how to get care.”
He noted that good vision is important for everyone, but especially for students as they are developing and learning in their formative years. It is challenging to learn if you can’t see, and poor vision, which may not be obvious to kids or their parents, affects how students interact with learning. When there are impediments to learning, the negative effects can be life-long.
According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, children not reading on level in third grade are four times more likely not to graduate high school, with even starker disparities for minority students not reading at a college-ready pace. Yet, some kids needlessly fall behind in reading and writing because the pages are blurry, do not participate in discussions because they can’t read what the teacher wrote, and can’t keep up in class because the whiteboard is too far away.
Alcon’s ambition and committment to resolving these issues in the Fort Worth community includes providing vision screenings to every student in FWISD from pre-k to fifth grade. Most days, Dr. Stout and his team take eye care mobile, visiting neighborhood schools to perform comprehensive eye exams, provide no-cost eyeglasses if needed, and provide referrals or appointments to the Center for follow-up care.
As Alcon continues working to eradicate barriers and improve access to primary eye care for students in need, our mission will come to life through the skill and dedication of ECPs like Dr. Stout and his team. Learn more about the Alcon Children’s Vision Center: https://alconcvc.org/.
- UCLA Study: Impact Analysis of Vision to Learn.
- Alcon data on file. Audit conducted in 2021 among Fort Worth ISD Students.