Optometrists Learning More About People With Learning Disabilities
There are well over a million people with some level of learning disability in the UK [i],[ii]. People with learning disabilities are more likely to have eye problems, yet traditionally have problems accessing eye care. A new Continuing Education pack produced by Healthcall Optical Services in collaboration with SeeAbility and Replay Learning is aiming to make it easier for optometrists to offer the eye care that this group needs.
Leading eye care charity SeeAbility, formerly The Royal School for the Blind, estimates that 1 in 3 people with a learning disability in the UK have a sight problem. People have learning disabilities due to damage to the brain before, during or after birth, or from genetic or chromosome factors[iii]. This damage can also cause eyesight problems.
The pack contains practical advice for practitioners as well as background information about learning disabilities. Practitioners can find out about using a “‘person first’ approach when dealing with or discussing patients – they are ‘a person with a learning disability’ not ‘a learning disabled person’”. The pack looks at how to address issues that people may have about attending an optical practice. Practitioners can read about dealing with anxiety about an unfamiliar location, which, combined with a lack of understanding of what is going on can lead to a person with learning disabilities performing worse than they would do if relaxed.
Optometrists studying the material can get tips on communicating with people with learning disabilities, and find out about a useful tool developed by SeeAbility, the Pre Examination Questionnaire form iv.
Packed with handy and practical tips, the CET pack should be read by every practitioner to ensure that they, and their staff, are fully prepared when a person with learning disabilities needs an examination. Simple ideas, like ensuring recommendations and outcomes from the examination are written down can make a great difference to the person, as all their carers can then understand about their visual needs. Co-author Margaret Woodhouse says, “My hope is that the pack will encourage more optometrists to build up expertise in providing eye care to people with learning disabilities and help widen access. Optometrists not wishing to specialise will have a better understanding of the issues, so that they feel able to refer potential patients to appropriate practitioners. In turn, this will lead to better eye care for this population and far fewer people with learning disability being additionally handicapped by poor eye sight.”
The pack has met with warm acclaim from the industry. David Hewlett, Chief Executive of FODO, says, “We are pleased to support SeeAbility in their campaign to improve services for people with learning disabilities and welcome these new CET tools. The authors Dr Woodhouse and Gordon Ilett are world experts in this field. In our view, it is a matter of equal treatment and human rights that people with learning disabilities should be able to have an eye examination at the practice of their choice in the same way as any other member of the community. We welcome all efforts to help us provide the best quality service we can for this much neglected group.”
The pack will be distributed to 8,000 registered Optometrists across the UK by Replay Learning in Learning Disability Week 22nd – 28th June 2009.
Read the pack here
[i] Valuing People A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm50/5086/5086.pdf accessed 08/6/2009
[ii] The same as you? A review of services for people with learning disabilities
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/ldsr/docs/tsay-00.asp accessed 8/6/2009
Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability in Northern Ireland, http://www.rmhldni.gov.uk/index/published-reports/learning-disability-report.htm
[iii] Mencap Definition
iv The pre examination questionnaire form entitled ‘Telling the Optometrist About Me’ and the post examination form entitled ‘Feedback from the Optometrist about my Eye Test’ can be downloaded from www.lookupinfo.org.