Category Archives: ACPR

PR Basics: New Series of Tips to Help You Do Your Own PR

If you’ve found the tips on the ACPR blog about doing your own PR useful over the last few months, you’ll enjoy what’s coming up next. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I’ll be running ‘two minute tips’ from A Guide to Promoting Your Business to help you with your business promotion. With the addition of occasional bits of small business news inbetween the tips, I hope you’ll keep visiting the ACPR blog.

Opticians get Wise About Eyes

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Date: 19 June 2009

Opticians get Wise About Eyes

 

If you support someone with a learning disability, have you thought about taking them for an eye test recently? 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 often have difficulty getting good quality eye care. Leading eyecare charity SeeAbility (formerly The Royal School for the Blind) is working with optometrists to put this right.

 

Carers of people with learning disabilities may not realise that a person is not able to see, when the person themselves can’t communicate the problem. And for the person themselves, it may make little sense if they are, “going to a shop between the bank and butchers, being taken into a dark room with a stranger, being asked lots of funny questions and having lights shone into their eyes'”

 

A new education pack for optometrists will make it easier for people with learning disabilities to get the eye care that they need. The pack has been developed by Healthcall Optical Services in co-operation with SeeAbility and education and training provider Replay Learning. SeeAbility works to transform eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities through its eye 2 eye campaign which provides information, advice and support for people with learning disabilities, their carers, health and social services staff and eye care professionals. Paula Spinks-Chamberlain, SeeAbility’s Director of Information and Advisory Services says, “We have been working with Healthcall Optical Services across the UK for a number of years. Healthcall originally produced this pack for their own optometrists and approached us about sharing the resource with others across the UK.”

 

Dawn Roberts, Clinical Director at Healthcall Optical Services has been a driving force behind the new pack. She says, “When a person with learning disabilities is put at a disadvantage simply because they need spectacles but have never had the opportunity to have a sight test, action is required and this booklet is our attempt to address this situation.” Family carer Audrey Neate knows from her own experience that appropriate eye care can make a big difference to people with learning disabilities. She says, “When my son first went for an eye test he didn’t know his letters, so the standard test chart was pretty meaningless for him. In the early days he may as well not have gone for a test. Now though, an accurate measure of his visual problem means that he has been accepted into the Royal National College for the Blind.”

 

People have learning disabilities due to damage to the brain before, during, or after birth, or from genetic or chromosomal factors.”[iii] This damage can also cause eyesight problems. SeeAbility estimates that in the UK today 1 in 3 people with a learning disability have a sight problem. And, due to the very nature of their disabilities, this group has problems in getting access to eye care. Optometrist and co-author of the pack, Maggie Woodhouse, says, “The pack highlights the importance of eye examinations for people with learning disabilities, because they are at much higher risk of eye disorders.”

 

The pack contains practical advice for optometrists 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, such as anxiety about an unfamiliar location. Combined with a lack of understanding of what is going on, this anxiety can lead to a person with learning disabilities performing less well than they would do if relaxed. There are tips on how to get someone used to the ideas in an eye test on the Look Up website, www.lookupinfo.org

 

The pack is going to be of use beyond the optical profession. National Director for Learning Disabilities Anne Williams says, “People with Learning Disabilities have a right to the full range of health services including excellent eye care. Seeability has championed their needs and this pack continues with that good work”. Hilary Young is Improvement & Development Manager, Learning Disabilities Service in the London Borough of Hackney. Having looked at the pack, she comments, “I’m very impressed. It is one of the most helpful and informative things I’ve read in a long time. In my personal experience, it was only when I moved to sensory services that I realized the prevalence of sight problems and the impact they could have on the individual. Although this pack is directed at optometrists, it could be a resource for other professionals. Social care professionals will find it helpful to look from the other side. People need to know how to support someone going for an eye test.”

 

The pack is also full of tips on communicating with people with learning disabilities. It highlights a useful tool developed by SeeAbility, the Pre Examination Questionnaire. Paula Spinks-Chamberlain explains, “We designed these forms because people with learning disabilities and those who supported them asked us to do so. The Pre Examination Form entitled ‘Telling the Optometrist About Me’ is designed to be completed before the sight test. The process enables people to prepare well for the test, plus it helps optometrists to know all of the important things about the person and how they may respond to certain situations. The ‘Feedback from the Optometrist about my eye test’ form helps to share important details about the sight test with those who need to know. Without this form, this information can fail to reach all carers. Accurate and accessible information about how the person will see best, why glasses have been prescribed and when they will help is crucial.”

 

The pack goes on to explain about communicating during the examination and using pictures and sign language. It suggests that opticians, “Throw routine out of the window, and work in the order that is most appropriate for the person” in order to ensure that the most vital tests are completed first if the person’s attention wanes.

 

Packed with handy and practical tips, the pack is being sent out to 8,000 optometrists across the UK to ensure that they, and their staff, are fully prepared when a person with learning disabilities needs an examination. 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.”

 

Paula Spinks-Chamberlain sums up, “Many people with a learning disability will not know they have a sight problem and may not be able to communicate this to others. Unidentified sight problems can seriously affect someone’s quality of life, lead to increased dependency and preventable blindness. SeeAbility aspires to shape better and more accessible eye care and vision services for people with learning disabilities across the UK. The eye 2 eye Campaign is all about making genuine change happen for people with learning disabilities and this resource will be of great value to this process.”

 

Look Up www.lookupinfo.org an education resource on eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities. Look Up provides information and advice to eye care and vision professionals on the needs of people who have a learning disability – and information and advice on the importance of eye care and vision to those who support people who have a learning disability. A pre examination form entitled ‘Telling the Optometrist About Me’ and a post examination form entitled ‘Feedback from the Optometrist about my Eye Test’ can be downloaded from www.lookupinfo.org.

 

– ENDS –

Issued by SeeAbility. For further information please contact:

Monica Cornforth on 020 8997 1261 or 07811 147 192

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • SeeAbility is the operating name for The Royal School for the Blind, a national charity which has for over 200 years provided support for people who are blind or partially sighted and have additional disabilities.
  • SeeAbility currently provides a range of services in; Birmingham, Bristol, Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside, London, Sheffield, Somerset, Surrey and West Sussex.
  • SeeAbility offers a wide range of specialised residential, community and rehabilitation services for people with a visual impairment and additional disabilities. Our aim is to provide each individual with the support they need to develop essential life skills for greater independence and a fulfilling life.
  • SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye Campaign, a community-based initiative, is improving eye care and vision for people with a learning disability.
  • Look-Up www.lookupinfo.org provides information and advice on eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities.
  • SeeAbility’s Central Office is based in Epsom, Surrey. For further information call 01372 755000 or visit www.seeability.org


[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

 

SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye campaign makes the semi-final of the National Lottery Awards

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Date: 19 June 2009

SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye campaign makes the semi-final of the National Lottery Awards

People with learning disabilities have been getting better eye care for the last 3 years, thanks to SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye Campaign. Your vote for the project in the National Lottery Awards could help take SeeAbility through to the final.

There are around 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability, and 1 in 3 have a sight problem. Many of these people do not know they have a problem and may not be able to tell anyone. The innovative eye 2 eye Campaign created and run by SeeAbility, formerly, the Royal School for the Blind, works to improve the eye health and vision of people with learning disabilities across the UK.

 

Optometrist Ron Paxton has been involved in the project from the start. He says, “Too often, because something is ‘too hard’ the problem gets left behind; ever hopeful that another good soul will answer the call for help. SeeAbility has taken on this difficult problem and has started to achieve real results for people with learning disabilities.”

 

Lottery funding is vital in enabling the eye 2 eye Campaign to reach people. . eye 2 eye Development Officer Stephen Kill is funded through a Lottery grant to work directly with people with learning disabilities. He says, “There is a lot of preparation needed for someone with learning disabilities to receive an effective eye test. They need to understand what’s going to happen and feel comfortable.”

 

Family carer Audrey Neate says, “My son has been accepted into the Royal National College for the Blind. This would not have happened without an accurate measure of his visual problems. SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye work is raising awareness in a big way amongst people who care for people with learning disabilities. Carers are now more able to spot if a person might have a visual problem and take action to help the person make the most of their sight.”

 

David Scott-Ralphs, Chief Executive of SeeAbility says, “We’re delighted to have reached the final of The National Lottery Awards. Lottery funding has helped SeeAbility to extend our eye 2 eye work, enabling us to improve eyecare for more people who have learning disabilities. We’re really hoping the public get behind us and vote.”

Stephen also raises awareness of the importance of regular eye tests to prevent people with learning disabilities from losing their sight unnecessarily. Ron, 58, already had poor vision in one eye when it was noticed he was having trouble with the other one. Stephen supported him through treatment to have a cataract removed. Ron is now confident about getting around and is enjoying his life.

 

Stephen says “I love my job – it is immensely rewarding to help people with learning disabilities make the most of their sight.”

 

SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye project is competing in the Best Health Project category. Voting takes place between the 22nd June and the 10th July. To register your vote for the project go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards, phone 0844 686 7110 or go direct to the SeeAbility website www.seeability.org. If the project gets to the final it will have the opportunity to be on the Saturday night National Lottery Show and tell the nation about the importance of this work.

 

– ENDS –

Issued by SeeAbility, for further information please contact:

Monica Cornforth on 020 8997 1261 or 07811 147 192

Case studies are available.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • SeeAbility is the operating name for The Royal School for the Blind, a national charity which has for over 200 years provided support for people who are blind or partially sighted and have additional disabilities.
  • SeeAbility currently provides a range of services in; Birmingham, Bristol, Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside, London, Sheffield, Somerset, Surrey and West Sussex.
  • SeeAbility offers a wide range of specialised residential, community and rehabilitation services for people with a visual impairment and additional disabilities. Our aim is to provide each individual with the support they need to develop essential life skills for greater independence and a fulfilling life.
  • SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye Campaign, a community-based initiative, is improving eye care and vision for people with a learning disability.
  • Look-Up www.lookupinfo.org provides information and advice on eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities.
  • SeeAbility’s Central Office is based in Epsom, Surrey. For further information call 01372 755000 or visit www.seeability.org

 

 

Young people with learning disabilities missing out on eye care

Young people with learning disabilities missing out on eye care

 

Across the UK, thousands of young adults with profound learning disabilities may be missing out, just because no-one has thought to test their eyes. Read on to find out how one SeeAbility community development officer in Sheffield is trying to turn this situation around.

 

Pauline Hargreaves is a learning disability nurse who works as a Community Development Officer as part of the national eye2eye Campaign run by SeeAbility. She says, “When I started working on the Campaign I saw lots of people with learning disabilities who had been referred to me with previously unidentified eye problems. Many of the people I have supported to have their eyes tested and subsequently had problems identified have been in their fifties and beyond. This concerned me as a number of people had clearly spent many years being unable to see well due to a lack of eye care. Therefore I started to look for a way to change the future, to help people with learning disabilities to access eye care at a younger age.”

 

Pauline decided to get in touch with the local secondary school for children with profound learning disabilities, Talbot Specialist School in Sheffield. She says, “I knew that if I could initiate eye care before the children left school, they would get into the eye care system and be sent reminders to have regular care throughout adulthood.”

 

There are around 65,000 children and young people with severe and profound learning disabilities in England. [i] Better health for people with learning disabilities is a key priority in the Government’s latest strategy for people with learning disabilities, Valuing People Now. It says that, “There is clear evidence that most people with learning disabilities have poorer health than the rest of the population and are more likely to die at a younger age. Their access to the NHS is often poor.” The pilot Pauline was proposing at Talbot Specialist School would look at bringing eye care to the students, improving their chances of getting serious eye problems detected.

 

Eye tests for people with learning disabilities are vital as they have a higher incidence of eye problems than the general population, and those with profound learning disabilities like the students at Talbot Specialist School are most at risk. In one study in the Netherlands 38.9% of young adults with profound learning disabilities were found to be blind. People with learning disabilities are more likely to need spectacles than the general population, and more likely to have a high prescription too.

 

BOX COPY
People who are blind or who have severe sight problems are likely to have some useful vision, and action can be taken to help them make the most of their remaining vision:

  • Moving about is easier in an environment with clearly marked edges.
  • If someone’s vision is better on one side than the other, then may prefer to be approached from that side.
  • Making things bigger makes things easier to see, however little vision you have.
  • Improving lighting on the task in hand will help too.

END OF BOX

 

Talbot is a Specialist School for more than 100 young people with a range of complex learning needs including autism, profound and multiple learning disabilities. Carolyn Sutcliffe is the Deputy Head. She says, “Pauline came to school to talk to use about [eye care for the students] and I was very impressed. One of the parents also told us how her son, who has learning disabilities, was also visually impaired. The parent said that it was fantastic that it had been picked up.”

 

Pauline liaised with the teachers and school nurse, and spoke to Healthcall Optical Services which offers mobile eye examinations, also known as domiciliary eye care. She says, “I was able to explain that many of the students would not be able to use the conventional letter charts, and some would not be able to match pictures. They seemed to take this all in their stride.” Dawn Roberts of Healthcall Optical Services says, “It is not the first time we have worked with SeeAbility in the Sheffield area.”

 

Pauline recruited the students from those who were leaving the school at the end of the school year. She says, “All the school leavers have to have a medical. We went through the forms to identify any student who had not had regular eye care. Some had never had their eyes checked, while others had had congenital eye problems detected at birth, but with no recent follow up.”

 

The tests took place over two days. Pauline says, “It did take some organisation. For those students who were able to, we used the medical room. For others it was easier to test them in their classrooms. With some students, where we were able to, we used SeeAbility’s ‘Telling the optometrist about me’ forms to find their medical and eye health history out before the test. We managed to talk about the eye test to some of the students too, to help prepare them.” She continues, “The optometrist turned up with a good range of tests on the day which would suit students of different abilities.” Dawn Roberts of Healthcall Optical Services explains how an optometrist can get good results, even if a student could not match or name pictures, “We’re able to get a good estimate of a prescription using one of two techniques. Retinoscopy involves shining a light onto the person’s eye and inserting lenses until the reflection of the light does not move. It is very accurate, and a technique that all optometrists can use in anyone’s sight test. If the person can comply, the optometrist can use an autorefractor which shines a picture onto the back of the eye, measures the distance to the back of the eye and calculates the prescription needed. The optometrist has experience of knowing what sort of prescription will make a difference to the person. We can make a really good assessment of what their vision would be and their carers can be informed.”

 

BOX COPY

Eye test essentials

Retinoscopy/autorefractor – to estimate the person’s prescription

Letter charts or picture matching – to allow the optometrist to refine the prescription

Ophthalmoscopy – shining a light into the eye to check eye health

The optometrist will use other tests depending on the person’s needs and abilities.

END OF BOX

 

Pauline says, “The optometrist was great. Where he could see there was a potential problem he stuck with it to get to the bottom of the issue. With some students he used eye drops to get a better view of the back of their eyes or to allow him to estimate a prescription more accurately. Not every student wanted their eyes tested: some wouldn’t let him get very near with his torch, but we managed.” The staff at Talbot School were also impressed. Carolyn Sutcliffe said, “We hadn’t thought we could offer this sort of screening in school. It was not disruptive at all.”

 

Sutcliffe explains one plus point of testing in-school which contributed to the pilot’s success, “The parents didn’t have to take [their children] to a strange environment.” Katrina, whose sons had their eyes examined, agrees, “I thought Jonathon, my eldest, could see everything. When he had his eye test he was found to be long sighted. I had problems with my other son as he didn’t want to wear his glasses, and the test showed he no longer needed them. The eye tests were great and I wish they could have been started when the boys were younger. Having the test in school is wonderful. The children need continuity and routine. Taking them into a high street opticians would be difficult as it would be a strange and new environment. The person who came to the school was marvellous and I was surprised that Jonathon behaved so well.”

 

CASE STUDIES:

 

Robert was registered partially sighted at birth, but had not had eye examinations since then. The optometrist checked his good eye, which was found to be extremely short sighted with a cataract. He felt that Robert would benefit from specs to address the shortsightedness, regardless of his other problems. Pauline says, “It may take Robert some time to get used to his spectacles. I’ll work with his teachers on introducing them gradually, but we hope that they will help him make the most of the vision he does have.”

 

Dawn has Downs Syndrome and profound multiple learning disabilities. She was not able to co-operate with the eye examination, but the optometrist could use an instrument to estimate that she was moderately short sighted and would not be able to see far at all. With a new pair of glasses Dawn’s vision should improve significantly.

 

Frank, a teenager with unmanaged epilepsy, had been in intensive care recently, so it was not a great day for the eye test. He didn’t want to open his eyes which meant that the optometrist could do very little. However another test was arranged for him at his home. Pauline says, “We went into the kitchen and did the test there with his mother present. She was so pleased to have his eyes checked, and felt it was a relief.”

 

Commenting on the results, Sutcliffe says, “I was surprised in one way, but learning disabilities can mask so many things. I now realise lots of people have eye problems that are not detected. I was impressed with how it was done too. The outcomes demonstrate the need for [eye testing for students with learning disabilities]. It has been a vital piece of work”. Pauline Hargreaves says, “I think many of the teachers assumed that the children had had an eye test somewhere in their journey through school. A support teacher here does some screening at age five, but of course that is not a full eye test. The teachers were amazed how easy it was to have the eye tests, and astounded that so many of the students could benefit from an eye examination.” Hargreaves adds, “Had I not started this project, these children would have gone on from school into adult life without being able to make the most of their vision. I fed back test results to the relevant teachers who were surprised that they had not spotted any problems. Even the school nurses had not picked up on signs of sight problems. One of the young women we tested just looks down at her chest all the time, which can be a sign that there is a vision problem. With others, lack of concentration could be an indication that it is worth getting an eye check. ”

 

A key issue for the NHS in Valuing People Now is to ensure high-quality specialist health services where these are needed. Pauline Hargreaves hopes that the pilot at Talbot Specialist School will show the need for better eyecare for people with learning disabilities, and encourage other specialist schools to arrange in-school eye care. She says, “How can children and young adults be expected to learn and develop when we are writing off one of their main senses? I’d like to see eye tests for children in special schools to be required by law. These young adults will be taking a care plan with them when they leave school, and now their visual needs will be on that plan. They will now get services that take into account how well they can see too.” Deputy Head Carolyn Sutcliffe agrees, “Health and social care need to work together to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities. Now these difficulties have been picked up the students can get appropriate treatments to improve their quality of life. This will help with their independence and allow them to continue learning more effectively throughout their adult life.”

 

Dawn Roberts highlights the need for better training for eye care professionals in working with people with learning disabilities, “Lots of optometrists have little experience with working with people with learning disabilities but we have been working with SeeAbility on a training package which will go out to all UK optometrists. There are a whole host of people with learning disabilities who are not getting access to eye care at the moment, and we’d like to change this. I know of one man who could not go to the toilet independently until it was discovered that he was extremely short sighted. With new spectacles he could take himself and no longer needed to wear pads.”

 

If you are keen to set up in-school eye tests in your area, Roberts advises that you approach the PCT first, “The regulations currently only allow for NHS sight tests to be provided at home, in an approved day care centre or an optician’s practice. Explain the benefits of testing in school to the PCT and they may be able to fund it as a Local Enhanced Service. Alternatively the service may need to be put out to private tender.”

 

If you know someone with learning disabilities who has not had an eye examination, SeeAbility Project Lead for Yorkshire and the Humber Laura Christie has some advice, “Nobody is too disabled to have their eyes tested. A lot of the students in this pilot had very complex needs and everybody managed to participate in some way. Visit the LookUp website to find a local optometrist who has registered to examine people with learning disabilities, and check out the information on the website or give SeeAbility a call about how to help someone prepare for an eye test.”

 

For More Information

www.lookupinfo.org – ‘Telling the optometrist about me’ and “Feedback from the optometrist about my eye test” forms are available to download along with further information on eye care and preparing someone for an eye test. You can also call 01372 755000 or email info@lookupinfo.org

 

www.seeability.org

 

www.healthcalloptical.co.uk

 

 

Talbot Specialist School Young Adults Eye Tests 2009 Outcomes

 

No problems 6 Students

Cataracts 3 students

Optic nerve damage and changes in the retina 2 Students

Nystagmus 2 Students

Glasses 4 Students

 


[i] Valuing People, Department of Health (2001)

 

 

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