I’ve always wanted to help people with disabilities and their vision since I was little

My aunt lived with us as she was blind and had cerebral palsy. So sight – or the lack of it – has always fascinated me. That’s why I became an optometrist.

I’ve worked in community opticians and in hospital clinics. Now I’m lucky enough to have my dream job as lead for SeeAbility’s Children in Focus eye-testing team.

Many people don’t realise that the most common cause of visual impairment is uncorrected refractive error (astigmatism, short or long-sightedness or weak accommodation) and all you need to sort this out is the right pair of glasses. Someone does not need to able to read, speak or even communicate for us to check their vision and eye health. If a child cannot name or match letters, pictures or symbols their level of vision can still be assessed by observing their responses to people, objects and pictures. This is when I will use my favourite bit of kit called a retinoscope, so that I can measure eye-focusing by shining a light into their eyes while holding up lenses. I can prescribe glasses from this  test which can be life changing.

 

Every child deserves an equal right to sight

SeeAbility has been sight testing children in a number of special schools since 2013 out of their own charitable funds. These children are a staggering 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other children. So far, we’ve tested over 700 children and given out over 450 pairs of glasses.

One little boy I am proud to have helped is Nasir. The first time I met him he kicked me quite hard, but we get on much better now! He has autism, Down’s syndrome and limited communication skills. Understandably, his mother never took him for a sight test at the community opticians because he finds strange places and new people so difficult. I found that Nasir is short-sighted and has astigmatism, often the first stage of keratoconus – something that children with Down’s syndrome are more likely to have. It’s important he continues to get checked, as this degenerative disorder can be treated if picked up early. This is why sight tests should take place within the safe and familiar environment of special schools.

 

As SeeAbility’s Clinical Lead, I also research and campaign for change. We believe there needs to be a national programme so that every child gets routine eye care at their special school. This is where the children are relaxed, and we can communicate easily with their teachers to ensure they get the right support with wearing their glasses and their visual needs. Every child deserves an equal right to sight. 

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, SeeAbility’s Children in Focus campaign can continue its important work. If you’d like to help make a lasting difference to people who are missing out on the eye care they desperately need and deserve, please visit our donate page.

Lisa