National Eye Health Week

Sight is especially easy to overlook in individuals with learning disabilities as there may be more obvious or pressing ‘challenges’ that mask the sight problems, yet if sight is impaired and goes unnoticed then all those other challenges are so much greater and more difficult to overcome!

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Susan Turner is mum to four adult sons, two with learning disabilities, Ben and Luke who both have significant sight impairments, but neither were picked up until they were age 17 and 10 respectively.

Susan commented “they were dealing with so much it never occurred to us that there might also be sight problems, poor Ben fell down a flight of stairs before we realised there might be a problem with his vision. Currently, sight and eye health tests are not routinely offered to those with learning disabilities as part of general health checks in the health, social care or education system, so it’s down to the family/carers to be proactive and take them to the opticians. This can be a challenge in itself as some opticians are ill prepared to examine individuals with learning disabilities, I personally know families where concerns over sight have been disregarded by eye care professionals because of the more obvious difficulties presented by the learning disability.

It is not just about sight checks either, eye health is imperative, conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma can cause deterioration of sight and have a particularly devastating effect on someone with a learning disability. It is therefore essential that families find empathetic, patient and resourceful opticians that are trained and experienced to deal with individuals with learning disabilities.”

Faye Harburt, Head of ECL’s Sensory Service added to this “We would also encourage all care providers working with people with disabilities in residential or day services to consider this information and work towards supporting people to have regular sight and hearing tests. We are happy to help advise on this should anyone need further support or information.”

According to the sponsors of National Eye Health Week:

  • 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss, that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives. Half of this sight loss is avoidable.
  • A sight test can detect early signs of conditions like glaucoma, which can be treated if found early enough.
  • During a sight test, other health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure may be detected.

Considering this Susan iterated “I would urge anyone who has, or cares for a person with a learning disability to persevere and get regular eye checks, it’s so important as poor vision or compromised eye health can have disastrous consequences for someone with a learning disability”

Image of two adult male siblings with learning disabilities and impaired eyesight
Susan's sons Luke and Ben

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