News & Press Releases

One of CVC’s Founding Directors “retires”

David A DamariDr. David A. Damari is the Dean at Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University. Prior to his appointment as dean, he was a professor at Southern College of Optometry and Chair of the Department of Assessment, responsible for institutional review, measures of academic outcomes, quality assurance in the curriculum, and reaccreditation. His is a Fellow and past president of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. He has just taken office as President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, an international organization.

It was during his tenure at SCO that Dr. Damari came to Aberdeen as part of a team of four doctors to screen the children at Belle Elementary School for vision disorders as part of a study looking for indicators of dyslexia in Aberdeen’s second and third grade population. He and LuEllen Childress, now Executive Director of CVC, became well acquainted while working on the data from that study.

Asked by Wendy Beth Rosen about his affiliation with CVC, Dr. Damari responded….

When did the idea for the CVC come about? When did you [LuEllen] come to me with the idea for building a clinic out of the research we did together? [It was 2012] I just remember being at that little school in Aberdeen, MS, with my residents and students and rudimentary screening equipment. The children and the adult helpers were all so friendly and filled with a desire to do better. It seemed a natural choice to do more than a one-time screening for these students.

What has been your role as one of the founding directors in creating the MCCVC? I believe that I have had a few roles from the beginning of this enterprise. The first was to listen to LuEllen’s dream for these children and figure out ways to help her make it happen. To do that, I had to contribute with my knowledge of vision and eye care and with my experience with association leadership. But, make no mistake, the driving force behind it all has always been LuEllen. She is a force of nature trying to do what is best for the children of northeast Mississippi.

What challenges have you encountered and how have these “opportunities in disguise” enabled you to grow? We have always had a challenge drawing more people who have the resources of knowledge, skills, or finances to this project. Part of what made this project attractive to me was that this section of our nation has been suffering from apparent inattention by corporate America and state and national government agencies for decades, maybe even centuries. However, this is also the huge challenge. It is very easy for people or organizations who have the resources to help, to overlook this little corner of our nation.

How can the CVC be a model for others to replicate in their communities? If this project is successful – and it is my firm belief and fervent prayer that it will be successful – it will be because one altruistic champion had a vision for this community and an intention for its children that if one major piece of the puzzle could come into place for them, better things would follow. The visual impairments these children have to struggle with every day at school and while doing homework are obstacles that must be removed for them to achieve their full academic and economic potential. When that happens, it will facilitate great things for northeast Mississippi.

Dr. Damari’s contribution to the establishment of CVC cannot be overstated. We value his contributions and look forward to future relationships in years to come. And we wish him well with his new role as President of ASCO.


Monroe County Children’s Vision Center (CVC) is pleased to announce that Tronox has become the first Corporate Partner with CVC.

Quoting from a May 16, 2017 article in the Monroe County Journal:

Monroe County Children’s Vision Center partners with TronoxHAMILTON – Behind the scenes work for the potential Monroe County Children’s Vision Center has picked up its pace in the past several months, and the commitment of its first corporate partner, Tronox, will help in the effort.

“We’re thrilled to have Tronox partner with us. They will help get the message out and have offered financial support already,” said the force behind the vision center, LuEllen Childress. “We have a Plumfund campaign, which is a crowdfunding site for nonprofits called ‘Help Children’s Eyes Work Together’. Even small donations made through the site attract attention.”

Tronox is known for supporting school and recreational activities, and partnering with the vision center is a first for the plant.

“We partner with schools, especially with robotics since our background is in science and math. This is different from what we’ve done before, and it still helps our community and helps our children. If we can support an effort like this, it helps us with future employees down the road,” said Tronox Human Relations Manager Amy Webb.

GuideStar Seal of Transparency - Gold for Monroe County Children's Vision CenterCVC is proud to now be listed at the Gold level with GuideStar, the world’s leading online directory of nonprofit organizations.  The Gold level is an indication of the amount of information available on their site, which is a resource for foundations and philanthropists considering possible investment.  Please go to GuideStar to learn more about CVC.

Shop on Amazon and support Monroe County Children's Vision CenterHave you ever heard of Amazon Smile? It is a special philanthropic arm of Amazon through which Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Monroe County Children’s Vision Center whenever you shop on AmazonSmile. You can automatically donate at no cost every time they buy something on Amazon.

If this is news to you, click here to signup to support CVC or go to Amazon and type “Amazon Smile” into their search bar or use the link above. Register, just as you did for Amazon, and select from their list of hundreds of nonprofits. Hopefully, you will select Monroe County Children’s Vision Center!

The project of getting CVC funded is coming along nicely and we’ve met with a consultant for some guidance in the grant writing effort. In the meantime, your contributions through Smile, or a direct contribution through our campaign “Help Children’s Eyes Work Together”, will allow us to continue getting information into the hands of schools, churches, civic and social organizations throughout the county.


10 hours ago


Do you have/ know/ are someone with autism? Following is an old--9 years old--article that is still valuable. I have spoken with Dr. Kaplan's senior occupational therapist who reported having had three autistic patients in clinic that day, two of whom were from foreign countries. She said that two parents left the clinic in tears of joy over the immediate change their child experienced after just putting on their new glasses. Vision therapy was to follow.

Published October 2009, Ophthalmology, Volume 80, Issue 10, Pages 547–548

This is a review of the book, SEEING THROUGH NEW EYES: Changing the Lives of Children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Other Developmental Disabilities Through Vision Therapy, by Melvin Kaplan . (

Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed.

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Researchers estimate that now 1 in 150 children has a pervasive developmental disorder, up from 1 in 10,000 a generation ago. Many autistic behaviors are visual: poor eye contact, staring at lights or spinning objects, side viewing, or flicking fingers in front of the eyes. No wonder parents are seeking optometric opinions with increasing frequency.
Reading Mel Kaplan's book is a good start to learning about these fascinating patients and how to help them. A pioneer, with decades of experience in the field of autism, Kaplan is a veteran at using lenses and yoked prisms and creating vision therapy activities for this population.
The book is divided into 3 parts. In Part 1, Kaplan describes the relationship between mild visual issues and problems such as reading and coordination problems; moderate visual processing problems and poor depth perception, which can cause anxiety and other emotional dysfunction; and the severe visual disorganization seen in patients with autism and related disorders.
The more severe the visual problems, the more “autistic” a child is. Those with mild visual dysfunction often are classified as having attention deficits or learning disabilities, whereas those with moderate issues may be labeled PDD (for pervasive developmental disorder) or Asperger syndrome. Those with full-blown autism usually show severe visual disorganization.
In Part 2, Kaplan describes both formal and informal testing. This section includes very helpful advice on history-taking and dealing with some of the sensory issues, such as tactile defensiveness, seen in patients with autism.
Knowing a child's history helps determine appropriate treatments, not just in the area of vision but also possible complementary interventions. Kaplan appreciates the role of adjunct professionals, such as doctors providing biomedical treatments and therapists who can normalize function in other sensory modalities, and encourages collaboration with these colleagues as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
Because many of the patients cannot comply with test standardization, Kaplan recommends many performance-based activities. He has combined several of these to form the Kaplan Nonverbal Battery, in which tasks are arranged hierarchically, allowing the doctor to observe how patients deal with increasing demands on their visual systems.
For higher-functioning patients, he adds classic assessments, such as the Gesell, Van Orden Star, and the Keystone 21-point battery. What makes Kaplan's recommendations for testing unique are his use of prism lenses during the diagnostic process. His intuition about the “right” lens to elicit appropriate behaviors is uncanny. The opportunity to learn from his wisdom is one of the most valuable parts of the book.
Part 3 is the essence of this publication. It has the potential to be life changing for optometrists considering adding vision therapy (VT) to their practices. Those who already do VT will hone their skills by adding some of Kaplan's activities that combine his holistic understanding of the visual system with Tai Chi–type movements, reflex integration, lazy eights, and breathing exercises. Activities are divided into sections for improving spatial organizational issues, problems with orientation, and treating strabismus.
Throughout the book Kaplan provides many dramatic case studies from his practice, demonstrating how to interpret findings and design a visual management program to meet each patient's unique needs. His examples of how prism lenses resulted in significant changes for those with convergence insufficiency, accommodation deficits, and strabismus are compelling. His goal is always to maximize each patient's performance by looking at the organism as a whole, not just at eyeballs.
Some may recall Kaplan's seminal work with Rickie, the daughter of psychiatrist Frederic Flach who was diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia (a predecessor to the autism diagnosis) at age 13. After years of failing to respond to medications, psychotherapy, and even electroshock therapy, Kaplan determined that Rickie's visual system had broken down to the point where she was legally blind. Although skeptical of vision therapy at first, Dr. Flach quickly saw its efficacy, as he watched his daughter turn around. The 2 unlikely partners later collaborated on research that revealed that two thirds of the psychiatric population has visual dysfunction.
More recently, Kaplan has been working with Stephen Edelson, Ph.D., the director of the Autism Research Institute (ARI) in San Diego, to evaluate the role of visual issues in this generation of children with autism. Dr. Edelson's foreword to the book describes some of the behavioral changes he has witnessed, including immediate normalizing from toe walking to flat-foot walking, improved eye-hand coordination and posture, and a reduction of inattentive and hyperactive behavior.
Even though Seeing Through New Eyes is written for the public, optometrists at all levels can benefit from reading it. The glossary in the back is particularly valuable for educating the public about how optometry views vision as different from eyesight, and how visual intervention can help all aspects of functioning. For young ODs still searching for a niche in their chosen field, this book gives them a historical overview of the growing field of vision therapy and opens an exciting door to a growing population of patients whose lives can be improved through optometry. After reading Seeing Through New Eyes, most will agree with Kaplan's statement that “the fastest way to change behavior is through a lens.”
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October 2009, Volume 80, Issue 10, Pages 547–548


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3 weeks ago


Just an early thought. Save the date of April 6 for the 3rd Annual SeeSmart Scenic 5K. Once more on Lock and Dam Road, Aberdeen Lake. Be gathering friends for this colorful event! ...

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4 weeks ago


This is an earnest call for volunteers who are savy with social media. The web page and Facebook page--and their Executive Director--could use some Millinial tech support. Please contact me through messenger if you are creative and used to chirping--no, tweeting?--and such. Thanks a bunch. ...

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Newspaper Articles
A true story from A wide receiver named Robert

Quoting from a June 11, 2016 article in the Monroe County Journal:

By LuEllen Childress/For the Monroe Journal

The other day I was visiting with a young man named Robert. We had a pleasant conversation, and I learned he loved football. He is a wide receiver and had been accepted to the high school football team this fall, an accomplishment for which he was justifiably pleased.

I also learned he and “school” just didn’t get along and as a matter of fact, he was on suspension for having talked ugly to his computer teacher. On a whim, I asked if he had trouble learning the plays from football diagrams, and he said he did. I pulled up the Quality of Life Checklist from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development website and handed it to him. Answers to the 19 questions are weighted from 0-5, with 20 being the threshold for possible Binocular Vision Disorder (BVD). Robert scored 40!

Extrapolate that information and you can understand why he has trouble with football diagrams and computers, and most other subjects in school. Think a bit further and you may understand his short fuse resulting from the tension set up between a brain expecting perfect input and eyes that just can’t give it – yet.

It is SO important that we identify these young folks and provide the help that is available. And in Robert’s case, telling him about Larry Fitzgerald gave an immediate buy-in. Larry, a running back with the Arizona Cardinals, is the spokesperson for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and explains that vision therapy helped him become the player he is today. His grandad noticed his vision problems when he was young, and he appeals to everyone to realize how important early intervention is to education.

Please check out the website, copy the link to the QoL Checklist and share it with local school officials teachers, your pastor and every coach you can contact. There is a locator on their page to find the nearest developmental optometrist, which in our area is Dr. Sharon Snider in Birmingham. She has a satellite clinic in Columbus, listed as Snider Therapy.

We are working to establish the Monroe County Children’s Vision Center that will provide optometric evaluation and appropriate therapy to any child from birth to 18 years who lives in Monroe County or attends school in Nettleton at no cost to the family. If this story touches your heart, please check out and look for the campaign: “When Eyes Don’t Work Together….”