New study to understand impact of vision impairment on movement development in children

Post date: 
Friday, 3 March 2017

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have conducted research to understand the impact of sight loss on how early movement develops, with the aim of improving movement skills for blind and partially sighted children.

In collaboration with Guide Dogs NI, the team were able to capture the movement skills of 43 children by running skills-based tests for basic movements. Activities included balancing, throwing, catching, bouncing and jumping.
Researchers compared different groups of children, both sighted and with varying degrees of vision impairment (VI), adapting the tasks for children with VI, like by using audible balls. By comparing these, the team hope to better understand the challenges children with VI face completing everyday tasks, so that they can help set them up for a more independent future.
The results found that the fully-sighted children and children with minor vision impairment performed many of the tasks to the same level, however children with severe VI found the movement skills tests more difficult.
Dr Matthew Rodger, from the School of Psychology at Queen’s, Principal Investigator for the study, said:

“We found that the degree of vision impairment experienced by the children had a substantial impact on their performance in these tasks. Our analysis has helped us identify specific aspects of movements that seem to be affected. We now want to build on this knowledge to investigate if and how sounds can be designed to help children with vision impairment better perform fundamental movement skills.”

Fiona Brown, Head of Mobility Services at Guide Dogs NI, said: “Early development studies show that 80 percent of our learning is done through sight, so children with sight loss need early intervention to replace this and help them meet milestones for basic movement skills. Our collaboration with Queen’s has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of children living with sight loss, right from birth. The data that the research provides will be used to inform our work with children and young people, helping us to provide more targeted support for children with sight loss and their families.”
The research, which has been funded by Queen’s Business Alliance Fund and Guide Dogs NI with the support of The Hospital Saturday Fund, will now examine if using a more continuous sound to assist the children with severe VI will enable them to carry out movement tasks successfully. The team plan on developing this process technologically to be used in the home or at school.

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