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A Down's Syndrome child reading with his new glasses.


Children and adults with Down’s syndrome are much more likely to have eye defects than are members of the general population. The defects include the long or short sight that many of us experience and for which we wear spectacles. But whereas only about 5-8% of ordinary children of primary school age need spectacles, approximately 60% of children with Down’s syndrome need them. Other defects are more common too, such as squint (eye-turn), poor focusing and reduced detail vision.

In 1992, Professor Bill Fraser of the University of Wales College of Medicine (and now of the Welsh Centre for Learning Disabilities) and Dr. Margaret Woodhouse of Cardiff University began recruiting our cohort of young children with Down's syndrome, with the aim of following the children’s visual and general development. Since then the cohort has grown, so that currently over 160 children take part in our studies. The children live in all areas of South and West Wales and many families travel long distances to Cardiff to join in our studies. Our team members travel too – we see many of the children at home or in school. Some children have been with us since the beginning and we have had the pleasure of watching them grow and develop; others have joined us more recently. All of the families are precious to us and we remain grateful for their enthusiasm and commitment to our ongoing work.

Overall, our study is dedicated to understanding:

  • How and when eye defects arise

  • What makes children with Down’s syndrome more prone to eye defects

  • The impact of the defects on learning and education and how these can be minimised

  • How we should best manage the defects with spectacles

  • How we might prevent the defects in future generations of children

Summary of our research findings so far...

Parent Handout [558.2 Kb]
Vision in children with Down’s syndrome Parent Handout March 2010