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Eye problems are very common in young children, for example, 2-3 percent of young children develop a squint. Squints are usually easily detectable (you notice your child's eye either turning in or outwards) and are unlikely to have a significant lasting effect on your child's vision.

However a smaller number of children have moderate to severe visual impairment (6/18 or greater on vision testing) and this may affect their development in different ways. Good vision is essential to your child's ability to move around safely, manipulate objects, develop independence skills and can even have an impact on how a child communicates. At school children may require adjustments to the classroom environment and learning materials in order for them to achieve academically.

Pointers to serious vision problems may be detectable at birth or in the early months of life, for example, a cataract or rapid sideways eye movements known as nystagmus. Affected children often are unable to fix their eyes on a face or follow a moving object. Significant visual impairment may be due to an inherited or genetic condition, cataract or may be associated with other developmental difficulties in a child with complex disability e.g. Cerebral Palsy.

What you can do to help

Parents are the experts on their own children, therefore if you suspect that your child's vision may not be developing normally, contact a health professional, eg health visitor or GP as soon as possible.

How we can help

The Trust runs a Joint Vision Clinic for preschool children with moderate to severe visual impairment in Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The clinic staff consists of a Community Paediatrician, Orthoptist and Qualified Teacher for Visual Impairment (QTVI).

The aim of the clinic is to provide up to date advice on the child's developmental progress and vision levels in the context of their visual impairment, and to consider any outstanding needs that have not already been addressed, as well as what adaptations may be required for your child in nursery or in school.

The advantages of this clinic are:

  • Children are often more relaxed and assessment is easier in this informal clinic environment which has an emphasis on developmental and visual assessment through play, as opposed to a busy hospital clinic.
  • Parents receive advice about how to promote their child's development and maximise their child's vision.
  • The multi-agency format of the clinic facilitates communication of up to date information and advice between parents and professionals aswell as between professionals in different agencies. Sharing of information is always done only with parents consent. Advice is provided for parents, and with their consent, to educational settings.

Referrals to the clinic are made via the Sensory Support Service of the Local Education Authority, or by your child's ophthalmologist.

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The Nurse was really supportive and understanding, it wasn’t awkward. I enjoyed it.