A light in their lives: delivering eye care to children in special schools

13 May 2022
Spring 2022

A framework for delivering eye care to children in special schools aims to help those who often seek treatment the least, writes Anna Scott.

The figures are sobering: children with a learning disability are 28 times more likely than other children to have a serious sight problem, such as amblyopia, strabismus, accommodative anomalies, cerebral visual impairment and nystagmus. Yet almost half of children in special schools in England have never had any eye care (SeeAbility, 2019).

According to a study of 1,000 children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) in special schools conducted by the charity SeeAbility, 46.2% had a visual problem and 31.5% needed glasses (Donaldson et al, 2019). Despite this, only 10.7% had visited a community optical practice. Any tests and treatment were rarely recorded on education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

“We are going into schools for the first time and picking up teenagers who are -8 myopes,” says Lisa Donaldson, SeeAbility’s Head of Eye Health and Clinical Lead of the Special Schools Eye Care service, and lead author on the study. “They haven’t had a test, in many cases because it’s been put down to their autism. Many of their behaviours [not making eye contact, holding things close, lack of engagement] aren’t a flag for a sight test as they might be in another child.” 

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