Cardiff University

Treating vision problems for children with Down’s syndrome

For over 25 years, Cardiff University has led the way in diagnosing and treating vision problems in children with Down’s syndrome through optometry and classroom interventions.

Children with Down’s Syndrome are at greater risk of eye and vision problems than other children. They need regular eye examinations, are more likely to need glasses and require additional resources in the classroom to take account of visual impairment. The Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit at Cardiff University was established to address these specific vision issues which were previously poorly understood and often undiagnosed.

Since 1992 the Unit has pioneered research in this area which has led to life-changing discoveries. It has built up the world’s largest longitudinal tracking study of young people with Down’s Syndrome, with over 250 children and young adults’ vision and general development monitored by the Unit over time. One outcome was the discovery that the process which corrects errors in more typical infants fails in those with Down’s syndrome, but that bifocals can rectify this. The Unit also has the UK’s only special needs optometry undergraduate course.

The Unit’s research has directly informed national and international guidance on vision care for children with Down’s Syndrome. As a result, changes to sight tests, improved teaching methods and new educational resources for these children have had a huge impact on their quality of life.