As you may already be aware, we have started working in partnership with the national charities SeeAbility and Henshaws to ensure all our young people are able to access an eye test in the familiar surroundings of New Bridge with support from our staff who know them well. Optometrist Daniel Crown from Hathershaws Opticians has been running clinics every week, testing the eyesight of our young people in school, and Sara from Henshaws has been offering support to families whose children have visual impairments and supporting Daniel during some of the clinics which parents are also invited to attend.
Half of the young people tested have been prescribed glasses by Daniel and some even chose and had their glasses dispensed in school. They have all received a report explaining the outcome of the test and what their glasses are for and if there are any concerns or breakages with glasses while Daniel is still testing on site, he will be able resolve the problem or order replacements.
Joseph is one of the young people to benefit from this fantastic project, as his parents explained to Laura Christie, SeeAbility’s National Manager for Children and Families..
Joseph is 13 years old and lives happily at home with Mum, Dad and big brother. Diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called MECP2 Duplication Syndrome at the age of four, Joseph is unable to walk and spends most of his time in his wheelchair. He also is prone to infections and takes medication for epilepsy.
He can say a few words and use some basic signs, but communication is often a struggle and Joseph makes choices using symbols on a sheet. It all meant that his family didn’t know how someone could test his eyes and also worried about finding optometrists with wheelchair access to their practice.
When he was three, Joseph had his eyes tested at a health centre in Oldham and was prescribed glasses. But he constantly took them off and didn’t like the feel of them, so his parents were advised that he could manage without them.
“We found out recently that some of Joseph’s medication could make his vision blurred and luckily we received some information from the school soon after. It was from SeeAbility, who said they could test Joseph’s eyes in school,” said Neal, Joseph’s dad.
“We thought, fantastic! Joseph is very happy in those surroundings and we didn’t need to worry about access.”
Mum, Rebecca, attended the appointment with Joseph and met SeeAbility’s specialist team, who used symbols and lights to carry out the sight test.
“They were lovely, immediately putting Joseph at ease and making him comfortable. They worked together to test his eyes, being patient and calm, and adapted the test around Joseph,” said Rebecca.
Our optometrist found Joseph to be long-sighted with blurred vision. “I was surprised and worried about Joseph keeping the glasses on, he doesn’t even keep his sun hat on!”
SeeAbility actively supports children in special schools to wear their glasses, and that involves strategies to help parents. It helps when the moment a child puts their new glasses on is special.
“When the optician put Joseph’s new glasses on him he immediately started looking around, as though he was seeing things clearly for the first time. It was amazing to see,” continued Rebecca.
Now Joseph wears his flexible and light glasses often, sometimes for 40 minutes at a time. The school encourage him to wear them and mum and dad are so pleased with the outcome.
Neal said: “We wouldn’t have known Joseph had poor vision as he wouldn’t have been able to tell us. It will help him with communication and to develop, we are grateful for all SeeAbility’s help and support.”
We’re delighted that this project will be continuing throughout the term and we’re looking forward to supporting more of our young people to access vital eye care.
If you would like your child to have their eyes tested and you need another copy of the consent forms for your child, please don’t hesitate to contact reception and we will send them home.