Bifocals bring ‘amazing’ boost to Henry’s sight
Bifocal glasses prescribed by Vision Express in Horsham have made an ‘amazing’ difference to a 12-year-old boy who has Down syndrome.
Mum Caroline is thrilled by the progress in Henry’s reading, writing and everyday skills. “He took to the bifocals really quickly and is starting to read,” she says. “He still needs lots of encouragement but now wants to read his key words every day. His handwriting is becoming clearer because he can see what he is writing.”
Dispensing optician Rob Eatwell, who fitted Henry’s new glasses, made sure he enjoyed his experience at Vision Express. “We try to make children feel as welcome as possible. It’s really important to get a rapport going,” Rob explains. “Bifocals are known to help children with Down syndrome focus better on close work,” he adds.
The new glasses are helping Henry develop everyday skills such as doing up buttons and using computer games.
“At the moment, Henry says he wants to work in a shop or café when he’s grown up,” Caroline says. “Being able to read confidently and use IT equipment will help him achieve this. He is already practising using the till in a friend’s shop!”
Better eyesight will also benefit Henry’s health. “Henry has coeliac disease as well as Down syndrome, and needs to be able to read labels so he can choose gluten-free foods,” Caroline explains.
Tests carried out by Dr Margaret Woodhouse at Cardiff University led to Henry’s prescription for bifocals.“It was delightful to meet Henry,” Dr Woodhouse says. “Like most children and young people with Down syndrome, he is very able if you do things at the right pace and make it fun!”
Dr Woodhouse has studied vision in children and young people with Down syndrome for 25 years, and has been awarded an OBE for her work. Now, with funding from Horsham-based charity Action Medical Research, she is investigating why bifocal glasses seem to be so beneficial for children with Down syndrome.
“We hope to discover more about how bifocals improve the vision of children with Down syndrome and their ability to explore the world around them,” says Dr Woodhouse. “Our work could lead to better ways to predict which children will benefit from bifocals, along with new prescribing guidelines for specialists in eye clinics, who don’t all know how to prescribe bifocals for children.”
Henry’s mum hopes that the research will lead to nationwide guidelines so no child misses out: “The primary years are key and the right glasses at this stage make such a difference,” she says. “Bifocal glasses have opened up Henry’s world properly. The difference has been amazing.”
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Notes to editors:
** Please note: Dr Margaret Woodhouse OBE and Caroline Johnston are both available for interview **
Please contact Kate Lee, Research Communications Officer, to arrange a suitable time**
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Action Medical Research is a leading UK-wide charity working to save and change children’s lives through medical research. We believe that the diseases that devastate the lives of so many of our children can be beaten. We have been funding medical breakthroughs since we began in 1952 like the first polio vaccines in the UK, ultrasound in pregnancy and the rubella vaccine – helping to save thousands of children’s lives and change many more.
Just one breakthrough, however small, can mean the world. Charity reg. nos 208701 and SC039284.