People with Down’s syndrome are more likely to have problems with their eyesight. Even if they wear glasses the quality of their vision will be impaired (poor visual acuity – see below). This is why children and adults should have regular eye checks. The UK Down’s Syndrome Medical Interest Group suggest the following basic minimum eye checks for babies and children with Down’s syndrome:
- Birth to 6 weeks – Newborn routine check including congenital cataract check
- Age 18 to 24 months – Formal eye and vision examination including check for squint, and refraction for long or short sight
- Age 4 years – Formal eye and vision examination including check for squint. Refraction and assessment of near and distant vision and visual acuity
- School age – Repeat vision test every 2 years, or more frequently if recommended by optometrist or ophthalmologist
Teenagers and adults with Down’s syndrome should have a full assessment by an optician/optometrist every 2 years. Anyone with Down’s syndrome (age 14 years and over) is entitled to a free annual health check with their GP. Vision should be discussed as part of the annual health check.
Children Vision Eye Tests and Glasses: Download this booklet here.
The article Seeing the World Differently was published in SEN Magazine Issue 81 March/April 2016. In the article Stuart Mills from the Down’s Syndrome Association, explains how vision impairments can affect children with Down’s syndrome. Download the article here.
- Vision – Supporting children with Down’s syndrome – this booklet, produced by a parent support group, covers wearing glasses, fitting, visual acuity, eye tests and bi-focal information.
- Cardiff University Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit has information for parents
- SeeAbility – searchable online database of optometrists and opticians who have shared information on their services for people with learning disabilities
Visual Acuity – Think BIG Think BOLD
Up to 50% of people with Downs Syndrome will need to wear glasses, but even when glasses are worn, 100% of people with Down’s syndrome have poorer visual acuity than other people. Visual Acuity is still poor even when a person with Down’s syndrome is wearing correctly fitted glasses for either long or short sight.
People with Down’s syndrome see the world differently – their world lacks fine details and sharp contracts. In order to compensate for the poorer visual acuity we can make the world around them BIG and bold.
Big and Bold printed materials and images will help – people with Down’s syndrome are visual learners so to help them succeed make sure they can see things. It is very important to take their poorer visual acuity into account in all learning environments.
Please share this information with your child’s school, and if your son/daughter is an adult, their support workers. Make all those who are involved in your child’s life aware of the poorer visual acuity in people with Down’s syndrome. Encourage them to make simple changes to think BIG and bold.
- School – Think Big Think Bold
- BIG and bold writing sheet
- How I See Things – explaining visual acuity in people with Down’s syndrome and what it means.
- Facts poster to take to your local Opticians
- Cardiff University Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit has information for teachers
- Cardiff University Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit has information for eye professionals, please feel free to pass this link to your local optician.
Easy read information for people with Down’s syndrome
Eyes and sight (DSA) – you can download a booklet at this link for adults with Down’s syndrome called ‘People with Down’s syndrome – Looking after your eyes’
A parent support group has made a booklet for children called My Glasses
Delivering an equal right to sight
In July 2016 SeeAbility launched a report and a parliamentary petition calling for for national pathways of eye care for people with learning disabilities, including for children in special schools, and for all working age adults with learning disabilities to be eligible for NHS funded sight tests.
Read the report:
There is also an easy-read report.
An Equal Right to Sight
Article by Donna O’Brien, Policy and Public Affairs Officer, SeeAbility. Published in the DSA Journal 136 Autumn/Winter 2017.