How eye tests are improving for kids with learning difficulties

Posted 3 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
Eye tests are generally routine, but results of a new study have shown differences in how health practitioners may be completing them. [Source: Shuttershock]
Eye tests are generally routine, but results of a new study have shown differences in how health practitioners may be completing them. [Source: Shuttershock]

New research released today, February 7, 2024, suggests the importance of standardising eye tests for children with learning difficulties.

Key points

  • La Trobe University research highlights why minimum standards should be followed for children’s eye tests
  • Having cognitive disabilities is one of the main reasons for an educational adjustment for schoolchildren
  • Some of the most common learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia

New research from La Trobe University released today, February 7, 2024, highlights the importance of providing minimum standards for children’s eye tests to ensure that testing procedures are consistent between healthcare professionals.

With all children having returned for the 2024 school year last week, many children are excited to learn more essential skills in subjects such as English and mathematics. However, what about the children who struggle with subjects like these in the Australian curriculum?

In 2023, 991,272  Australian schoolchildren were given an educational adjustment due to disability, with over half of these being a result of cognitive disability

Some common examples of learning disabilities include:

  • dyslexia: affects reading with problems around associating sounds with visual letters;
  • dyscalculia: affects maths such as understanding the meaning of numbers;
  • dysgraphia: affects writing, with difficulty turning thoughts into written words;
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: characterised by poor concentration, distraction, occasional hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour;
  • developmental coordination disorder: affects motor skills, such as holding a pencil;
  • developmental language disorder: difficulty understanding or using language.

Kylie Gran, who is the clinic coordinator at the La Trobe Eye Clinic, highlighted the necessity of creating minimum standards during eye testing of children with learning disabilities, as they were ‘not routinely assessed by many participants’ in a study undertaken by La Trobe University.

For example, in some cases, clinicians did not use eyedrops during the eye assessments which means that the determination of a child’s refractive error may not have been made. This type of error is common and can cause blurring of vision. This may have therefore impacted the decision regarding the recommendation for glasses or not.

“Children referred for assessment of learning difficulties are recommended a vision test given visual impairment can affect learning. It is vital that visual dysfunction is identified or excluded in these children to ensure targeted and timely intervention,” said Ms Gran.

More research is expected to be conducted to improve processes and ensure relevant assessments are available for children with learning disabilities. By ensuring that eye examinations are conducted to meet minimum standards, children with possible visual impairment are much less likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability. Difficulties with tasks, such as reading and writing, may be a result of poor vision, rather than the child having a learning disability. 

As procedures are developed, understanding more about learning disabilities, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, can help us to better support people with learning disabilities. It can be great to read a first-hand account of what it’s like to live with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Also, the question has been raised about whether a child will ‘grow out of’ a learning disability and the answer is fascinating. 

People with learning disabilities can also be greatly successful in life with ‘Always Sunny’ actor Rob McElhenney opening up about his disability diagnosis. 

How does your child cope with their learning difficulties?

Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts on social media. 

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Can you ‘grow out of’ a learning disability?

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