Visual Function and Ocular Status in Children with Disabilities in Special Schools of Northern India NC01-NC04
Dr. Gurvinder Kaur,
Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Brown Road,
Christian Medical College, Ludhiana- 141008, Punjab, India.
Introduction: Children with disabilities (other than visual impairment) are at a higher risk of visual impairment as compared to normal population. Majority of the ocular disorders, like refractive errors and strabismus, are easily treatable. As these children depend on their visual inputs for social and academic activities, an early detection and prompt treatment of even a minor visual problem is of utmost importance for them.
Aim: To assess the visual function and ocular status of children with disabilities other than visual impairment and to identify the preventable and treatable causes of visual impairment.
Materials and Methods: The study was conducted on children aged 3-16 years who were studying in special schools/ rehabilitation centers in Ludhiana. After prior permission, detailed ocular examination of all the children was done using standard examination techniques. Cycloplegic retinoscopy and refraction was also done and spectacles were prescribed. Children requiring further evaluation were referred to base hospital.
Results: A total of 404 children with disabilities (other than visual disabilities) studying in 7 rehabilitation centers/ special schools were enrolled. These included children with Cerebral palsy (12.1%), with Hearing impairment (35.3%), with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) (3.7%), with Autism (8.6%), with Down syndrome (12.8%) and with Mental retardation (27.2%). Ocular disorders were seen in 174(43%) children. The most common ocular disorders seen in these children were refractive errors (23%) and strabismus (18.1%). A total of 93(23%) children were prescribed spectacles and 37(9.2%) children were referred for further evaluation.
Conclusion: Ocular problems are common in children with other disabilities. Delay in the detection and treatment of these disorders compounds the already existing disability in these children. Lack of awareness and sensitization among the parents and teachers is a matter of great concern. Therefore, strategies regarding increasing awareness, mandatory ocular examination in these children and early detection and treatment of the ocular disorders is the need of the hour.