University of Edinburgh

Down's syndrome: vision, visual problems and visual assessment

Presented on 15 May 2008


Children with Down's syndrome are at much greater risk of eye disorders than are typical children. Disorders range from simple long-sight or short-sight correctable with glasses through to untreatable conditions such as nystagmus and keratoconus. Unless managed properly, all can be a cause of visual impairment.

Maggie Woodhouse has conducted research with children with Down's syndrome over a 15-year period, and she presented up-to-date understanding of visual development in children with Down's syndrome. Maggie also discussed ways in which vision can be assessed in children with learning disabilities, and provided guidelines for parents, teachers and eye care professionals, to ensure that children reach their full visual potential.

Maggie is an optometrist specialising in children and adults with disabilities. She is Senior Lecturer at the School of Optometry & Vision Sciences, Cardiff and runs the Special Assessment Clinic catering for patients of all ages with physical and intellectual limitations. Maggie had developed new techniques for assessing vision in patients with limited communication. Maggie has research interests in Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and in nystagmus and is especially interested in how visual and learning disabilities impact on education.

Presenter: Maggie Woodhouse, Senior Lecturer at the School of Optometry & Vision Sciences, Cardiff
Janis Sugden, Teaching Fellow in Education Support, SSC/University of Edinburgh


10.20 am Introduction, Janis Sugden

10.30 am Overview of the Down's Syndrome Vision, Maggie Woodhouse

  • Research Study
  • Refractive errors
  • How do eyes develop in children with and without Down's syndrome?
  • How do eye care professionals measure long and short-sight?
  • What are the issues around spectacle wear?

11.30 am Accommodation
Problems focusing on near tasks - how do we spot this and how can we help?

1.30 pm Additional eye problems in Down's syndrome
How can we recognise them and what can we do?

2.30 pm Visual acuity and contrast sensitivity

  • How can we measure vision in children?
  • What is vision like for a child with Down's syndrome and how can we help?

3.45 pm Course evaluation and close