A specialist clinic that will deliver eye care to children with special needs in the Midlands will be established at Aston University.
The centre will be led by Dr Vinuela-Navarro, who recently joined Aston University having completed research on eye movements in children, in particular those with special needs, alongside Dr Maggie Woodhouse at Cardiff University.
Under her role at Aston University, Dr Vinuela-Navarro aims to further develop her research by establishing the first clinic in Midlands that is dedicated to diagnosing eye problems for children with conditions such as Down’s syndrome, autism, dyspraxia, developmental delays and ADHD.
The new clinic will complement existing paediatric eye services that are already provided through Aston’s optometry department, the university confirmed.
Speaking about the importance of the clinc, Dr Vinuela-Navarro, explained: “According to research conducted by one of the UK’s leading disability charities, children with special needs are 28 times more likely to have eye problems; and we know that over 50% of pupils at special schools need glasses.
“At birth, we all have a specific eye prescription, and as the eye develops we grow out of this prescription. But it’s not the same for children with special needs; their eyes develop differently and they frequently do not grow out of this prescription. Unfortunately, these vision deficits aren’t always diagnosed, but we are getting better at identifying problems, and training for optometrists in this specialist area is improving all the time.”
More than 200 children and teenagers with Down’s syndrome annually attend the eye clinic at Cardiff University where Dr Vinuela-Navarro was previously based, with many travelling from Coventry and Manchester due to a lack of local services.
As a result of the new clinic, which is expected to open in early 2018, children with special needs will be able to be seen much closer to home.
Dr Vinuela-Navarro highlighted: “There are clinics in Wales, Northern Ireland, and London, so Birmingham is an excellent central location to establish a service. Parents are already beginning to learn of our plans – it’s a very close community and they love to see their child taking part in research, because if it can help their child or someone else’s child, they are very supportive.”
Pictured is Dr Vinuela-Navarro with a patient from the Midlands who travelled to the optometry clinic at Cardiff University where she worked.