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Visual impairment

A vision impairment means that even with correction, your ability to see is reduced.

Common eye conditions

There are some common eye conditions which may not affect your child’s vision. You should have your child's eyesight checked regularly so any problems are picked up early.

Common conditions include a squint - this is when the muscles in one eye are stronger than the other. Another is when the vision in one eye doesn’t develop as well as the other (also called a ‘lazy eye’). These and other treatable conditions include:

Find out more about eye tests for children on the NHS website

Blindness and vision impairment

Blindness is defined as less than 20/200 vision in the better eye with glasses (vision of 20/200 is the ability to see at 20 feet only what the normal eye can see at 200 feet). A person with 20° or less vision (pinhole vision) is also legally blind.

There are many types of vision impairment that can affect people in a variety of ways.

These can be grouped into:

  • Ocular visual impairment - this means that sight problems are caused by one or more parts of the eyes not functioning properly severe short
  • Cortical or cerebral visual impairment (CVI) - this is when the eyes are working but the brain cannot process the images they send
  • Combinations - some children may have a bit of both - a combination of CVI and ocular visual impairment

Introduction to vision impairment in children and young people - RNIB website.

What to do if you're worried

If you’re concerned about your child’s vision soon after birth,  talk to your GP or health visitor. They'll refer you to an eye hospital or department (to be seen by an ophthalmologist).

If you’d like your child to have a routine check at the optician, you should call ahead. That way you can explain your child’s needs, and they can tell you if you require a specialist appointment.

The NHS recommends that children should have their vision screened at an optician at age 4 to 5 years.

See the NHS website to find out more about visiting an optician

Your child may then be referred for further tests at an eye hospital or clinic. You’ll be given clinical information about your child’s vision. They may be registered as sight impaired (SI) or severely sight impaired (SSI).

Teaching and support services

If your child has a significant loss of vision, Wood Street Health Centre staff or your child’s school can refer them to SENDsuccess, the local sensory support service. 

A Qualified Teacher of Visual Impairment (QTVI) may visit your child at home or school. They will observe and assess your child’s functional vision (how they use their vision). They may also need to describe your child’s visual acuity (clarity of vision), fields of vision and colour perception.

As well as helping you support your child, they'll talk to teachers and school staff about what will help most in your child’s development. This includes how best to access the curriculum, for example, through larger print, auditory or tactile materials, the use of low vision aids (LVAs).

Your child may be prescribed glasses which will support but not correct their vision.

They’ll need to attend regular appointments to monitor their impairment and continue to share information about their vision.

Useful links

There are many organisations and charities that can help and support with additional needs, activities, or funding of activities/equipment. 

Royal National Institute of Blind People - RNIB is the UK's leading charity for people with vision loss. It has useful information about coming to terms with sight loss.

Royal Society for Blind Children - RSBC this UK charity offers family support services, health and wellbeing clubs, social and peer group activities and music groups.

VICTA is a charity that organises activities designed to improve the emotional, social, and living skills of children and young people with vision impairments.