I can’t take Nasir for a sight test at the high street optician’s because he gets upset and kicks people, 

      says the seven-year-old’s mother, Amal.

Nasir has Down’s syndrome and is on the autistic spectrum. He has limited communication skills and strange places and new people make him feel anxious. It often leads to challenging behaviour, which could turn a visit to a high street optical practice into a struggle. SeeAbility’s weekly visits to his special school have allowed Nasir to get the eye care he needs.

Flexible sight testing

SeeAbility’s optometrist Lisa Donaldson has tested Nasir a number of times at his special school:

Last time I saw Nasir he wasn’t up for anything. His teaching assistant warned me he was having a bad day, so we decided to postpone. I said we would do it again next week but in most high street practices you don’t have that option.

Children on the autistic spectrum like Nasir often dislike leaving familiar surroundings. In that case I can go into their classroom and it is often better to find out a little rather than take them out of their comfort zone and find out nothing.

Children with Down’s syndrome are more likely to have keratoconus – a degenerative disorder that causes the cornea to thin and change shape, leading to distorted vision and increased sensitivity to light. SeeAbility found Nasir has astigmatism, often the first stage. 

Nasir is very mobile which makes him more challenging to test. He gets up and moves round the room a lot. It would be more difficult in a high street practice full of equipment that he couldn’t touch,

       adds Lisa.

Nasir being sight tested on the floor with the help of a teaching assistant


Knowing Nasir

You have to know the child well before you can assess him,

       explains Tanja Hohler, the qualified teacher of the visually impaired at Nasir’s special school.

Nasir kicked in his first assessment, was brilliant on his second and lashed out when he saw his glasses in his third. I believe he couldn’t go to a high street optometrist - they wouldn’t know how to deal with his behaviour.

Amal was delighted with Nasir’s sight test:

I think it is fantastic that SeeAbility has tested Nasir at his school. Lisa is really good at communicating with the children and very patient. She has been specially trained to deal with children with special educational needs and used different ways to test Nasir.

Sight tests should take place in all special schools so that children like my son get their eyes tested when they first start. Children with a disability need to have regular sight tests so that any problems get picked up.