Improving educational opportunities and eye care for children with Down’s syndrome.
A 20-year study by our researchers gathered evidence on the vision of children and young adults with Down's syndrome and produced recommendations adopted in the UK and abroad.
Improving vision and learning
Our researchers collected data on the visual deficits of 250 children and young adults with Down's syndrome – the largest cohort of its kind in the world. The unique study allowed the team to discover causes of poor vision in children with Down's syndrome.
Led by Dr Margaret Woodhouse, the team showed refractive errors occurred more frequently in the cohort group. The data showed three-quarters of the cohort group typically had an inability to focus, even when spectacles were worn, but the team discovered bifocal spectacles worked well for children with Down's syndrome. The introduction of 'big, bold' lines on textbook pages led to improved classroom performance.
Historically, it was thought that children with Down's syndrome struggled to write because of poor motor skills. The teams research proved this actually stemmed from poor vision, and could quickly provide practical support.
Seeing the big picture
The research has led to new Department of Health guidelines for the recognition and practical management of common visual problems in children with Down's syndrome, with eye care specialists now recommending bifocals.
Children with Down's syndrome are now also benefiting from improved learning and educational opportunities.
- Al-Bagdady, M. W. , Murphy, P. J. and Woodhouse, J. M. 2011. Development and distribution of refractive error in children with Down's Syndrome. British Journal of Ophthalmology 95 (8), pp.1091-1097. (10.1136/bjo.2010.185827)
- Al-Bagdady, M. W. et al. 2009. Bifocals and Down's syndrome: correction or treatment?. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 29 (4), pp.416-421. (10.1111/j.1475-1313.2009.00646.x)
- Little, J. et al., 2007. The impact of optical factors on resolution acuity in children with Down Syndrome. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 48 (9), pp.3995-4001. (10.1167/iovs.06-1387)
- Stewart, R. E. , Woodhouse, J. M. and Trojanowska, L. D. 2005. In focus: the use of bifocal spectacles with children with Down's syndrome. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 25 (6), pp.514-522. (10.1111/j.1475-1313.2005.00326.x)
- John, F. M. et al., 2004. Spatial Vision Deficits in Infants and Children with Down Syndrome. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 45 (5), pp.1566-1572. (10.1167/iovs.03-0951)