According to the Kansas Department of Education, there are 6,500 school age
children in Kansas who suffer for uncorrectable vision loss.  How do you provide
low vision rehabilitation services to those children when Kansas is 89% farmland
and it is common for the state’s rural citizens to travel two or more hours for
basic healthcare and even longer for specialized care such as low vision?  That is
the question that Anne Nielsen, PhD, Outreach Coordinator for the Kansas State
School for the Blind and her colleagues Lion Beverly Nichols, PhD, and Joseph
Maino, OD, had to answer when developing a plan for pediatric low vision
rehabilitation services for legally blind and vision impaired children in Kansas.  

In early 2011 the team decided that they would write a SightFirst grant to submit
to the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).  This grant built on the
previous work accomplished with the use of previous Kansas Lions Sight
Foundation grants to improve low vision rehabilitation to children and help from
the Kansas Optometric Association and included the following:

1)        Development of ten regional sites across the state of Kansas for
secondary low vision rehabilitation clinics
2)        Providing those sites with low vision equipment
3)        Training the doctors and their assistants to take care of children with
impaired vision.
4)        Providing a “lending library” of various electronic and more sophisticated
devices for the children to use until the school and/or the parents could purchase
the aids
5)        Developing an electronic database/low vision recording system that can
be used by all the regional site doctors
6)        Developing a public low vision rehabilitation awareness and education
7)        Developing the KanLovKids Project website
8)        Developing other informational and educational media such as brochures
and other types of handouts to distribute to school districts, special education
cooperatives and Lions clubs across the state of Kansas.

In early August 2011, the team learned that they were awarded the LCIF
SightFirst grant – the very first such grant in the United States and only the
second given worldwide!  As a matter of fact, some of the reviewers for the
SightFirst grant noted that the KanLovKids program could serve as a model for
pediatric low vision rehabilitation services around the world.

Kansas Lions are also actively involved in the grant.  Lions have spread the word
to their local school districts, attended presentations on the program and even
observed several low vision examinations to gain a better understanding of the
difference between the low vision evaluation and a standard eye examination.  

Ten regional low vision centers—served by eleven doctors—are operational and
equipped, two in western Kansas, five in central Kansas and three in eastern
Kansas.  Training sessions, both one-on-one and group sessions, have taken
place. Creation of a low vision database to be used byall the program’s doctors
is an ongoing process.  The KanLovKids web site (http://kanlovkids.kssdb.
org/home) is up-and-running but always being refined and updated;  training
videos are being prepared to be available on the website. Informational
brochures and handouts are available.  

The KanLovKids is now in its second year and continues to expand.  In the first
year more than 150 children were examined. Lions across the state of Kansas
have become increasingly aware of the program and are doing an outstanding job
of promoting and publicizing the services of the program. Thanks to the LCIF
SightFirst Grant, the future of visually impaired children in the state of Kansas is
indeed very bright.

 For more information,
                           contact Anne Nielsen at