Bifocal glasses prescribed by Vision Express in Horsham have made an ‘amazing’ difference to a 12-year-old boy who has Down syndrome.
Reading, writing and everyday skills have become much easier for Henry Johnston since he has been wearing glasses made possible by Horsham charity Action Medical Research.
Mum Caroline said:“He took to the bifocals really quickly and is starting to read. He still needs lots of encouragement but now wants to read his key words every day.
“His handwriting is becoming clearer because he can see what he is writing.”
Dispensing optician Rob Eatwell, who fitted Henry’s glasses, made sure he enjoyed his experience with him.
He said: “We try to make children feel as welcome as possible. It’s really important to get a rapport going. Bifocals are known to help children with Down syndrome focus better on close work.
The new glasses are helping Henry develop everyday skills such as doing up buttons and using computer games.
Caroline said: “At the moment, Henry says he wants to work in a shop or café when he’s grown up. Being able to read confidently and use IT equipment will help him achieve this. He is already practising using the till in a friend’s shop.
Better eyesight will also benefit Henry’s health.
Caroline added: “Henry has coeliac disease as well as Down syndrome, and needs to be able to read labels so he can choose gluten-free foods.”
Tests carried out by Dr Margaret Woodhouse at Cardiff University led to Henry’s prescription. She has studied vision in children and young people with Down syndrome for 25 years.
Now, with funding from Action Medical Research, she is investigating why bifocal glasses seem to be so beneficial for children with Down syndrome.
She said: “It was delightful to meet Henry. Like most children and young people with Down syndrome, he is very able if you do things at the right pace and make it fun.
“We hope to discover more about how bifocals improve the vision of children with Down syndrome and their ability to explore the world around them.
“Our work could lead to better ways to predict which children will benefit from bifocals, along with new prescribing guidelines for specialists in eye clinics, who don’t all know how to prescribe bifocals for children.”
Caroline hopes the research will lead to nationwide guidelines. She said: “The primary years are key and the right glasses at this stage make such a difference. Bifocal glasses have opened up Henry’s world properly. The difference has been amazing.”
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