SeeAbility – Your Child’s Right to Sight
Audio of SeeAbility blog
Supporting staff and students to achieve their full potential since 1968.
Welcome to our weekly CENMAC blog post
SeeAbility | Guest blog by SeeAbility.
SeeAbility work closely with students in many schools and Charlton Park Academy benefits from their ongoing support. As part of the CENMAC team’s professional development one staff member spent a morning observing the work of SeeAbility. It was fascinating to see the range of eye conditions that are dealt with and also the innovative ways in which students’ vision was tested. CENMAC invited SeeAbility to write a guest blog to further highlight the work that they do and to coincide with National Eye Health Week.
‘Our peer reviewed research showed that thousands of children with disabilities across the country were missing out on the eye care they needed.’
Your child’s right to sight
When SeeAbility discovered that children with learning disabilities were 28 times more likely than other children to have a serious sight problem, we set out to demonstrate to NHS England the huge benefits that could be gained for these children by providing specialist eye testing within special schools.
In a six-year pilot programme involving 1,500 children at 11 schools, we conducted over 3,500 eye tests and dispensed more than 1,700 pairs of glasses. Nearly half of the children tested had a problem with their vision, and a third needed glasses – yet 44% of them had never had their eyes tested before. Our peer reviewed research showed that thousands of children with disabilities across the country were missing out on the eye care they needed.
We are delighted that NHS England has responded to our findings by committing to providing a fully funded eye care and glasses service to all special school students and this is now being rolled out across the country. All children will be offered a full vision and eye health assessment, at least every year and more often if needed. When children need glasses, these will be provided free of charge, including a spare pair so that children are not left without their glasses if they are lost or broken, and children will be supported to get used to wearing new glasses.
Plain English reports will be shared with parents/carers and teachers to explain each child’s visual abilities and needs, so that everyone understands how best to support them to get the best possible vision and, where necessary, how to adapt their education and support.
‘All children under the age of 16, or 19 and in full time education, are entitled to a free NHS eye test carried out by an optometrist at a community opticians and vouchers will be made available to purchase glasses for those who need them. ‘
SeeAbility have also worked with NHS England, Contact and the National Deaf Children’s Society to produce a series of 3 guides for families on eye checks, hearing checks and dental checks for children with a learning disability or who are autistic. The guides explain why these health checks are important, how they are done, how to access them and how to prepare and support your child.
The ambition of NHS England’s Eye Care programme is to eventually improve access to eye care services for all people with a learning disability or who are autistic. However, for children who do not attend a special school, or where an in-school service is not yet established, an eye test at least every year is recommended. All children under the age of 16, or 19 and in full time education, are entitled to a free NHS eye test carried out by an optometrist at a community opticians and vouchers will be made available to purchase glasses for those who need them. SeeAbility can help with recommendations within your community if you would like support to find a suitable optometrist.
SeeAbility’s commitment to changing lives was recognised this year when the Special Schools programme helped scoop us the overall award for Excellence at the prestigious Charity Awards. Su Sayer, chair of the Charity Awards judges, said: “We can all appreciate what a huge difference being able to see clearly can make to anyone’s ability to engage in everyday life. This is an outstanding project which, by influencing the NHS, will make a lasting difference to many people with a learning disability across the UK.”