Background Impaired hearing and vision will impact on other areas of a child’s development and this effect may be compounded in children with learning difficulties. The National Screening Committee recommends checking hearing and vision in all school aged children. However, a report by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists identified that not all healthcare regions fund school screening outside mainstream schools meaning that children with moderate to severe learning difficulties, who are being schooled outside of the mainstream provision, may be failing to access these screening services.
Objectives To look at whether children attending a local authority special needs school for children with severe and complex needs have ever had their hearing and vision assessed (excluding the newborn hearing screen), and if they have, whether the assessments were abnormal and whether any intervention was required.
Methods 50 children were randomly selected from all children attending a local authority special needs school. Data was collected retrospectively from electronic patient records and, in cases of missing data, parents were contacted directly.
Results Data was collected from 49 children (1 duplicate), age ranging from 5 to 20 years. 34 children were male. 32 children had a diagnosis of autism.
Only 55% of children had ever had their vision checked. Of these children, 63.3% had abnormal vision and in this group, 53% of the children had been prescribed corrective eye glasses.
79.6% of children had had their hearing assessed (see table 1 for results).
Of the children with abnormal hearing, 33% required an intervention (grommet insertion or adenotonsillectomy).
Conclusion 20% of these children have never had their hearing assessed (excluding the newborn hearing screen). Given that most of these children have delayed language acquisition and severe communication difficulties, it would appear important to ensure that they can hear adequately. This project also identifies a significant need for routine visual testing for these children who often rely on alternative visual techniques to aid learning and communication.
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