Whether it’s living, thriving, belonging, or loving, ultimately what we all want for our children is greater inclusion. Being able to see clearly makes a huge difference to their ability to engage in everyday life, their environment and their communities, as well as increasing their access to educational attainment and life chances.
Fact: Children with a learning disability are 28 times more likely to have a problem with their eyes and/or sight.
Every child whose vision can be improved is a success story, but it’s important to identify and treat problems as early possible to give them the best possible outcome.
Before your child’s eye test, think about how your child uses their eyes and sight and share this with their eye care professional. Do your child’s eyes look straight or does one eye turn in or out, sometimes or all the time? Is their sight different when they are tired? Can they recognise you from a distance without sound clues? How is their concentration for different tasks, e.g. looking at a book, photos on a phone or watching TV? Do they rub or screw up their eyes or turn their head or face to look at things? You can help your child to prepare by showing pictures or videos of what happens at an eye test. Playing eye test games using a small torch close to the eyes, playing peekaboo with small toys, and practising covering each eye in turn can also help.
As well as picking up eye problems, an eye test can often solve them, with glasses. Sometimes there may be a problem that can’t be made better with glasses or treatment but understanding how much a child can see is really important to make the best use of the sight they do have.
Fact: No child is too disabled to have an eye test.
It is possible to check to see if your child needs glasses by measuring the shape of their eyes using a special torch called a retinoscope. Glasses can then be accurately prescribed to ensure clearly focussed sight even if it is not possible to do ‘vision tests’ or make choices. Sometimes it may be necessary to use drops in your child’s eyes to prescribe glasses.
Fact: You don’t need to be able to read, speak or sit still to have an eye test or to be prescribed glasses if you need them
You know your child best so don’t be afraid to tell the eye care professional what will help the test go well such as avoiding sudden movements, bright lights, darkness or touch and explaining tests or demonstrating them on you first. Before a visit to the optometrist you can download the SeeAbility About Your Child and their Eyes form, and fill it in for your child with information about them and their sight and take it with you to your eye test
Ask your child’s eye care professional to provide a written report on their visual abilities, needs and difficulties, explained in language you and your child’s teachers can understand. The report should include any glasses prescription and explanation of what it is needed for. If your child needs glasses, it is important to understand that they will probably need time and support to get used to wearing them. The Results of Your Childs Eye Test form can be downloaded from the SeeAbility website.
Ask your child’s eye care professional to show you the effect on your child’s sight with and without their glasses using their ‘test lenses’. If your child is having problems getting used to their glasses, don’t give up but seek further help. Make sure your child always has a spare pair of glasses and don’t wait for routine appointments to address breakages or repairs. There are a large range of frames available which can provide a good fit for any child. Fitting for a child should always be done by a dispensing optician.
If your child has very poor sight, they may be eligible for registration as Sight Impaired or Severely Sight Impaired by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor at the hospital) (https://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health/registering-your-sight-loss/criteria-certification) . This may help with accessing services including the support of a Qualified Teacher for the Visually Impaired (QTVI).
Support is out there
Your child should have a full eye check at least once a year. However, if you are concerned that there is any change in their eyes or sight, then ask for it sooner.
Eye tests are free if you are aged under 16 or if you are under 19 and in full-time education.
Our research shows that thousands of children with disabilities across the country are missing out on the eye care they need. Over four in ten pupils we have seen had no history of eye tests or eye care, and yet half of the children have a problem with their eyes or vision, and at least a third need glasses.
NHS England has responded to our findings from this work, by committing in their Long-Term Plan to providing a fully funded eye care and glasses service to all special school students. This is currently being rolled out