Posted on 19 November 2020
THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN FACE UNDETECTED VISUAL PROBLEMS DUE TO COVID-19.
Did your child start primary school in 2019/2020? They may not be getting their sight tested like the year groups before them.
The brain develops visual function until the age of 7years. Screening a child in reception can detect issues with visual development which can still be corrected in time to achieve normal levels of sight. With Covid 19 closing schools in March and only reopening this September the screening program for 2019 intake had barely begun. Children in this year’s intake will not start to have their screening until the last years test have been complete, but, with sudden year group closures this backlog is only going to increase.
Like with many other services will they catch up? Will they do so with enough time to effectively treat those in need of referral? Or will they have to effectively forget a whole intake in order to start again?
BACKGOUND TO VISION SCREENING IN THE UK.
Children’s vision screening in the UK has for a long time now been a postcode lottery. Depending on where the schools are located, determines whether or not a screening program is funded in that area.
Currently Orthoptists lead this program. An Orthoptist specialises in visual development and how the eyes work together as a pair (Binocular vision). Unfortunately it’s a case of funding. An Orthoptist doing a vision screening is an expensive service and some areas the local NHS governance will not fund it.
At present the options are Orthoptists providing the tests or nothing, despite other professions being more than capable with a little additional training.
Luckily in the areas our practices fall under, screening services are available.
Firstly this issue is being discussed between the optical professions but no one is informing the parents of these children screening will not be taking place nor is it communicated to parents of children in none funded areas that their children will not have a sight test at school. By being aware you can have the opportunity to act.
We want to make all parents aware of the importance of detecting sight issues early in children. Not only can poor eye sight impact education but also if not corrected early enough, lower the potential levels of vision when older. Furthermore some vision defects are difficult to detect such as when vision is only reduced in one eye. In this case the child would be able to detect small objects with both eyes open leading to parents falsely assuming all is ok when in reality only one eye is seeing so well.
Although the vision function develops by the age of 7 years the eye is a focusing system and it can change throughout childhood, teen years and into adulthood. It generally settles down by your early 20’s and starts to change again as we enter 40’s. Yearly sight test are recommended until at least 16 years old.
Sight tests are free at any NHS registered opticians which we are as well as others. If concerned in anyway or even just to confirm sight is developing as well as you suspect you do not have to wait for your child to be screened at school. Book them in for a sight test.