Cardiff University Down's syndrome vision research prize

Cardiff University Down's syndrome vision research prize
From BBC - November 30, 2017

Evie is eight years old and has Down's syndrome. She was struggling to write letters.

But pioneering research by Cardiff University led to her being prescribed with bifocal lenses - and soon she could write her own name for the first time.

The work has now been awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize.

Typically, 6% of children Evie's age will be long or short-sighted. But for children with Down's that proportion shoots up to 60%.

Until a dedicated unit was established at the university's School of Optometry 25 years ago, very little was known about the effects.

But since then researchers have led the world in developing new ways of helping children see more clearly.

Dr Maggie Woodhouse said: "A major problem children have with Down's syndrome is difficulty focusing close up.

"Even when sight is corrected with spectacles, many of them are out of focus when they are looking at their schoolwork.

"Because they have a learning disability, it's not easy for parents and teachers to spot when a difficulty they are having is because they are not seeing well as opposed to their learning disability.

"But if you can get them seeing clearly they can learn a lot more easily than originally thought."

Dr Woodhouse said finding the Down's syndrome focusing issue had been "astonishing" and the biggest achievement for researchers was discovering the difference that bi-focals could make.

She said Evie was helped after her mother contacted the unit and was sent details of the research and this led to new bi-focals being prescribed.

"She struggled to draw the letters with her old glasses but there was enormous improvement with the new ones.

"Three weeks later she wrote her own name spontaneously for the first time, it was quite moving."


James Harris, 12, likes to play video games at his home in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, but he would not be able to without his specially-designed glasses.



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