Paper: In-school eyecare in Special Education settings has measurable benefits for children's vision and behaviour (link at bottom of page).
This paper explains research looking at the changes in the behaviour of children in a special needs school (in Northern Ireland) after unmet eyecare needs were met. For most children, this was a case of needing glasses, which is really important in special education.
Research has shown that just under half the children attending a specialist school for children with learning difficulties are likely to need eyecare, most needing glasses. So if you are involved in a special school, do a quick headcount and see if this many children in the school currently wear glasses, and by wearing glasses we mean:
Research has consistently shown that many in this group of children, especially children with autism, have either had no eye tests, or these have become out of date or were inconclusive.
Anyone who wears spectacles (or contact lenses) knows how disabling it is to not have their glasses on. You can't learn from what you can't see. So for children with special learning needs, to not have glasses when they need them, seems just, well, wrong. Of course they should have glasses but, there's a bit of a problem
So, it is difficult, yet this problem of unmet eyecare needs in special schools has importantly been the subject of increasing research. The charity SeeAbility have extensive resources with more information.
Improved vision is needed to help children with learning disabilities to best see and learn. To make this happen they ideally need:
This paper is part of an incredibly important project involving passionate specialists from vision and research groups, working collaboratively across the UK, to get much needed eye care to the children in this group.
Of the two hundred children taking part in this research, one had been given a cerebral visual impairment diagnosis.
The researchers' comprehensive vision testing included assessing visual perception skills, using two tests. One was a questionnaire called the Visual Skills Inventory (VSI) and the other a set of cards with increasingly crowded images (called LEA Crowded). These two tests showed that nearly a quarter (23.5%) of the children had visual perception difficulties.
Visual Perception Difficulties
CVI causes visual perception difficulties, but so do other conditions. To confirm whether CVI is the cause of the child's visual perception difficulties requires a medical assessment and where appropriate, a diagnosis. That is why the term visual perception difficulties rather the CVI is used, because with these tests, that is all that has been confirmed.
Will some of the children with these visual perception difficulties have CVI as the cause? Almost certainly.
This is the first time (that we are aware of), where visual perception difficulties have been measured and the results published for this group of children, and this clearly shows that more understanding is needed to find the causes of the children's difficulties, so that support can be matched to known needs.
There are various figures about how much learning is visual, or connected to vision. Some suggest 70 to 80%.
So vision is a massive part of learning.
For the children with visual perception difficulties, we know it can be hard to get a medical CVI assessment. So we suggest trying some of the strategies for CVI, like:
If these approaches work, then maybe learn and try some more.
With what we are learning about how common CVI may well be, in both children and adults, medically diagnosing everyone is not going to be a practical possibility, it is as simple as that. So we need to think in other ways.
Support for CVI is harmless, and improving access to information, may well help all children learn, so why not 'err on the side of caution' and assume visual perception difficulties may be CVI. Try the strategies, and if they work, take that as a positive outcome. The condition is then being successfully dealt with.
Back to this paper. For the children who had unmet eyecare needs and got the support they needed (mostly glasses), did their behaviour improve? The paper gives a fascinating and detailed explanation of the measured improvements obtained, like staying focused and on task.
In short, of course their behaviours improved.
Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...
At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.