31 Oct

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As you may already be aware, we are 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 have even chosen 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.

We have already told you about Joseph, one of our pupils to benefit from this fantastic project (click here if you missed his story) and we are delighted to be able to bring you news now of another very happy young man, Kaif. His parents explained to Laura Christie, SeeAbility’s National Manager for Children and Families, just how much of a difference this has made….

Kaif is 12 years old and lives happily at home with his Mum, Dad and younger sister. Born prematurely at 27 weeks, Kaif has spent a lot of time under the care of the hospital and his parents find it very stressful and costly to take him for an appointment. He has learning disabilities and autism, and is now petrified of going in for a check.

SeeAbility’s research shows children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have sight problems. Kaif is part of that group and has two to three hospital appointments a year to test his eyes. It’s always been problematic to get the right prescription because he gets so anxious, often refusing to let the doctor look in his eyes or administer eye drops.

As he grew bigger it became even more difficult to get him to these appointments: “He would cry and tantrum as soon as we got to the hospital. I couldn’t go on my own and my husband would have to take time off work,” says mum, Shagufta. “Trips to the hospital always felt like a full day out and one that I dreaded.”

It got to the point that Kaif had to have a general anaesthetic when he was 6 years old, to know exactly what his prescription was. Since then, Kaif wears his glasses all the time, only removing them to go to bed.

Appointments at the hospital are still difficult for Kaif but since SeeAbility started offering eye tests at his school, the family do not have to deal with stressful hospital appointments anymore. In the familiar school environment, where Kaif has good relationships with staff, our optometrist Daniel was able to tailor the experience to his needs.

Taking the time to sit and explain to Kaif what was going to happen, Daniel even practised on his teaching assistant so that Kaif could see how the test worked. In this way, Kaif went from standing nervously by the door to sitting down in his own time when he felt comfortable. Daniel also decided to test with the lights on so Kaif could see what was happening around him.

Daniel says: “The familiar environment of the school made all the difference and I was able to do far more than what would have been possible at the hospital.”

SeeAbility found that Kaif needed a stronger prescription and he and his Mum were invited to go to Daniel’s practice to choose the glasses they wanted. Even though Kaif was now familiar with the people at the practice, he became anxious and didn’t want to go inside. This wasn’t a problem for the SeeAbility optician, who came out to the street and measured for Kaif’s glasses there!

Kaif now has his new glasses fitted and is looking forward to day trips with his family. His Mum now feels relieved that he can have his eyes tested in school……and wishes it could always be this way!

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.