Working primarily in special schools across England providing sight tests and dispensing spectacles to children with learning disabilities, SeeAbility’s Lisa Donaldson and Ned Saunders encouraged practitioners to adapt their clinical and practical routines to best support the needs of each patient.
During a CET-accredited talk at 100% Optical (London ExCeL Exhibition Centre, 4–6 February), the duo revealed that there are an estimated 1.4 million people living in the UK with a learning disability. “This means around 1% of adult patients that practitioners see will fall into this category,” optometrist and clinical lead for SeeAbility, Ms Donaldson, highlighted.
“What practitioners should remember first and foremost is that we are all people and we are all equal,” she said. “Everyone should be making eye care as accessible to those with learning disabilities as it is for ‘normal’ people and this means adapting, and being creative and sensitive in how you test and assess their vision.”
Offering tips on adapting the clinical sight test, Ms Donaldson highlighted the importance of talking to the patient, not just their carer, and introducing ‘fun’ tools into the routine, referencing how a simple pen torch with a figurine on the end can be very effective.
She also emphasised that practitioners should remember that they have an obligation to provide all of their patients with the required information in a format that is accessible to them.
However, for Ms Donaldson, it is communication that is key. “Don’t make assumptions,” she said. “It’s important to always ask – there is nothing wrong with asking someone how they communicate, especially if they are non-verbal.”
“However, when you ask these questions,” she added, “it is important to make a note of the answers on that patient’s record so you are aware of their needs next time they visit. And communicate your findings.”
Dispensing optician Mr Saunders explained that when it comes to dispensing the importance of knowing your frame range inside out and only showing the patient frames that are suitable for their needs.
“While our optometrist performs the specialist sight test, I’m already thinking about what glasses would fit the child best,” he explained.
“It’s hard to take back options once you have shown them to the patient. So be aware that frames, for this patient group in particular, must be flexible, strong and practical,” he added.