Research suggests thousands of children with disabilities in the UK are missing out on the eye care they need
Eye Health When SeeAbility gave Brandon a sight test at his special school it was a real shock to hear what they found. Nobody had realised Brandon couldn’t see out of his right eye.
“He can’t read, so I never took him for a sight test at the opticians because I thought you had to be able to read the letters on the chart,” says Brandon’s mother, Louise.
Her son is 17-years-old and is on the autism spectrum, which means he is largely non-verbal. He has a learning disability and goes to a special school in North London.
SeeAbility Optometrist Lisa Donaldson gave Brandon his first ever sight test when he was 16-years-old.
What were the results of Brandon’s eye test?
“I found that he can see very little with his right eye. He is very short-sighted in that eye and this has made it very lazy (known as amblyopic). Unfortunately his right eye has not developed as it could have done had he had an eye test when he started school at the age of four or five,” says Lisa.
As he only uses one eye his field of vision is limited, meaning he has difficulty with depth perception, judging distances and walking up and down stairs on his own.
If Brandon had received treatment involving prescribed glasses and patching before the age of seven, he might be able to see perfectly today.
Eye problems that go undetected and/or untreated after the age of seven – such as squint and long/short-sightedness – may lead to one or both eyes becoming lazy and resulting in permanent limited vision.
SeeAbility will continue to monitor Brandon’s sight in both eyes. In the future Brandon may benefit from wearing glasses to improve the sight in his left eye as he is slightly short-sighted in that eye and that may increase as he continues to grow.
Children with disabilities are far more likely to have serious sight problems
Every child under the age of 19 in full time education has the right to a free NHS sight test. But many children with disabilities, like Brandon, are missing out on the eye care they need.
SeeAbility, a sight loss and disability charity, has been delivering sight tests in selected special schools as part of a research project with Cardiff University. They found that children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other children. The in depth study found nearly 4 in 10 pupils had no history of sight tests or eye care. With 100,000 children in special schools in England, SeeAbility’s research suggests thousands of children with disabilities across the country are missing out on the eye care they need.
Sight is very important to a child’s learning and development, and early eye care can prevent more serious sight problems later on. Experts recommend a fuller eye examination for children with learning disabilities because of the high risk of serious sight problems. Despite this there is no national plan to meet their eye care needs.
SeeAbility’s Children in Focus Campaign wants specialist sight tests available in every special school in England. You can find out more at https://www.seeability.org/Ci