Children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both are 28 times more likely to have serious sight problems than other children. Despite this 44% of pupils in special schools have never had a sight test.
The sensory project aims to make sure that every child who goes to a residential special school or college can access a sight test and have glasses dispensed if needed on the school premises. By improving their vision children and young people can increase their independence, become more engaged with learning, achieve and enjoy their lives more.
After having a sight test every child will also be given a report written in plain English for parents/carers and teachers, explaining what the child can see and offering strategies to improve the child’s level of engagement with their immediate environment – in the classroom and at home.
Sight tests will be done in the child’s school and any child who needs glasses will be given two pairs of their choice, free of charge (a comprehensive range of specialist frames will be available to all children). Families and carers will be able to learn more about good eye care and managing eye conditions.
Tests for children and young people with a learning disability and/or who are autistic who do not go to a special school
The Special School programme is the first phase in our broader ambition to improve access to eye care services for everyone with a learning disability and/or who is autistic, including children in non-residential special schools, mainstream schools and adults.
Currently for children and young people who do not go to a residential special school, or where an in school service is not yet established, an eye test at least every year is recommended.
All children under the age of 16, or 19 and in full time education, are entitled to a free NHS sight test carried out by an optometrist at a community opticians and vouchers will be made available to purchase glasses when they are needed. You can arrange this yourself and do not need to be referred. This test will include checking how well your child can see, how the eyes work as a pair, how the eyes are focused (to see if glasses are needed) and the health of the eyes inside and outside.
Children and young people can also be referred by their GP, paediatrician or optometrist to a community vision clinic or hospital eye clinic where necessary.
We have produced a short film to explain more about the new residential special school eye care services.
People with a learning disability and/or people who are autistic
Book beyond words – Looking after my eyes
Parents and carers
We have worked with SeeAbility, Contact and the National Deaf Children’s Society to develop a parent’s guide to eye care for children with a learning disability, autism or both. The guide explains why these health checks are important, how they are done, how to access them and how to prepare and support your child
Special school staff
SeeAbility have worked with the National Association of Special Educational Needs to produce a guide for teaching staff on eye care and its importance.
To find out more about accessing or providing the NHS Special School Eye Care Service, contact NHS England at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to find an optician – Find an optician – NHS (www.nhs.uk)