Hello! My name’s Ned, I’m 25-years-old, and I’m the Dispensing Optician for SeeAbility. You’ll find me during one of our special school sight tests, jumping around enthusiastically whilst modelling a pair of occluding glasses, or quickly fitting a pair of frames before they potentially fly off towards me (again!)!

 

What I do

I became SeeAbility’s first full-time Dispensing Optician in March 2016. A normal working day includes cycling (and occasionally skateboarding) to one or two schools, where I’m part of our sight testing team working closely with our optometrists. I find and fit glasses where needed, and ensure the children are comfortably getting on with their specs! I spend lots of time adapting, repairing and customising frames, making sure that the fit is the best it can be.

In the testing room, my role is to attract the child’s attention and keep them calm and happy. Children in special school have a wide range of disabilities and many of them have limited mobility or communication difficulties. That means we have to be creative and sensitive in how we test and assess their vision. While our optometrist performs the specialist sight test, I’m already thinking about what glasses would fit the child best. I’m almost an expert at getting the right frame for the child first time — even if that initial fitting lasts only a few seconds! And I’m constantly on the lookout for frames that are comfortable, adaptable and most importantly… unbreakable!

 

A crucial part of my job is building trust with the children we care for. One of my top tips is getting someone the child knows well to try a sight test or wear the frames first, and letting the child choose which frames they would like. And I’ve always got a portable mirror to hand, so that the children can see just how good they look!

 

Making a difference

As a Dispensing Optician for SeeAbility, I really get to make a difference to people’s lives. One of my favourite moments was with a young boy, who is incredibly myopic, or short-sighted, and his old frames slipped too much due to the angle of his wheelchair headrest. He gave me a truly heart-melting smile when I fitted his new frames!

Since we began our sight testing in special schools, we have carried out over 1,000 sight tests, and dispensed over 450 glasses, changing the lives of so many children.

 

It takes time, and strategy

Sometimes a child’s behaviour and progress can improve straight away as their view of the world becomes much clearer, and often less isolating. But some children, particularly those with autism, find change difficult to cope with and need time to get used to their new glasses. Sensory overload can be overwhelming, so I work closely with teachers and parents to find strategies that work for each child. Getting a child to wear the right glasses is so beneficial to their development, education and vision.

Sadly, four in ten children with disabilities have no history of eye care, despite the fact that they are 28 times more likely to have serious sight problems! Thanks to SeeAbility’s sight testing team, more and more children are getting the help they deserve. With each pair of glasses that I find, customise, adapt and fit, I am collecting more and more data for our ground-breaking research in sight testing and dispensing glasses for children with disabilities. Our research provides a compelling evidence base for the need for a national sight testing programme. 

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we can continue campaigning for national change as well as delivering sight tests in our special schools. If you want to see me helping more children with learning disabilities, please visit our donate page. You can make a lasting difference to people who are missing out on the eye care they desperately need and deserve.

Ned