Are all children with visual impairment known to the eye clinic?

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There is a growing body of evidence that children with special needs are more likely to have visual problems, be that visual impairment, visual processing problems or refractive error. While there is widespread provision of vision screening in mainstream schools, patchy provision exists in special schools. The aim of the study was to determine the unmet need and undiagnosed visual problems of children attending primary special schools in Bradford, England.


Children attending special schools who were not currently under the care of the hospital eye service were identified. Assessments of visual function and refractive error were undertaken on site at the schools by an experienced orthoptist and/or paediatric ophthalmologist.


A total of 157 children were identified as eligible for the study, with a mean age of 7.8 years (range 4–12 years). Of these, 33% of children were found to have visual impairment, as defined by WHO and six children were eligible for severe sight impairment certification.


The study demonstrates significant unmet need or undiagnosed visual impairment in a high-risk population. It also highlights the poor uptake of hospital eye care for children identified with significant visual needs and suggests the importance of providing in-school assessment and support, including refractive correction, to fully realise the benefits of a visual assessment programme.

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