Free infant eye exams at Centennial Mall

— Teri and John Bolton both have glasses, their two oldest kids have glasses and their two newborn twin baby girls may need glasses.

They know they might need them because they received a free infant eye assessment for Carmen and Rebekah through the InfantSEE program at Eyecare Specialties in Centennial Mall by Dr. Craig Eckroth.

InfantSEE is for children 6 to 12 months old, and screens for eye disorders, such as near- or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as retinoblastoma, a kind of cancer that can affect all ages.

Carmen and Rebekah show signs of farsightedness, which can be alleviated through prescription.

Sight problems in infants can delay developmental activities, such as walking, because children are hesitant to move around.

"It's important, so they can read and see and run and play and function normally in society," Teri Bolton said. "It's better than waiting until they're reading age and seeing them struggle."

The Boltons have seven children, and the girls are the first they have brought in for the assessment.

Teri first learned of the program when she saw the sign displayed at Eyecare Specialties. After discussing the program with Eckroth and doing research herself, she decided it was important to bring in her infant girls.

"The initial visit is free, so why not?" Bolton said. "Science is always developing."

Eckroth and his partner, Dr. Ron Danner, have offered InfantSEE since the American Optometrists Association began the program three years ago.

"So much of our visual system is learned and developed in that time of life," Eckroth said. "The evaluation allows us to not only prevent certain degenerative disorders, but catch them and certain diseases in time that they don't do as much damage."

The program is meant as a complement to normal baby checkups, Eckroth said.

In 2005, the first year of the AOA program, about 7,500 optometrists participated and saw about 50,000 children. Doctors saw about 80,000 children the second year.

Eckroth and Danner hope to increase the number of infants they see, as well. Though their program in the Yampa Valley started slowly, they are beginning to see more visits each week, Eckroth said.

Eyecare Specialties has started to work more with the Visiting Nurse Association to spread the word during their well-baby check-ups.

"Since the beginning of the year, we've had about one (InfantSEE visit) each week," he said. "We just need to get the word out that this is important, and it's free."

Parents can call Eyecare Specialties at 824-3488 and set up an appointment for their infants at any time. The assessment is available to any infant ages 6 months to 12 months.

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