Sight plays a vital part in children’s development of language, social and cognitive skills. Visual impairment in children creates unique challenges to learning and development which can have a profound impact on their education and wellbeing. Two in every 1,000 children and young people up to the age of 25 in the UK have vision impairment.
Children at higher risk of visual impairment include very premature and very low birth weight babies, children from the most economically deprived backgrounds, children and young people from some South Asian ethnic groups and children with learning difficulties.
Early detection of visual impairment is key. Vision screening is not consistently available for all children aged 4 to 5, despite this being a recommendation of the UK National Screening Committee. Its primary purpose is to detect amblyopia and strabismus, but also identify refractive error. A recent YouGov poll which included just under 2,000 parents of children aged three to 16 found that around one in six said their child had never had an eye examination. Over a quarter had not taken any of their children for an eye test before the age of eight. This is important as if problems are not picked up at an early age, a child may have permanently reduced vision in one or both eyes.
See ‘The State of the Nation Eye Health’, available to download at www.rnib.org.uk/stateofthenation, for more information.