Blind children need more support

Children with vision impairment need more early years support, two charities have warned in a new report.

The report, entitled Sight Impaired At Aged Seven, has been released by the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Researchers found that without the right support, children with sight loss were at risk of having fewer friends than their sighted peers and were more likely to under-perform at school.
According to the findings, parents of children with sight loss were twice as likely to report that their child had emotional, concentration or behavioural difficulties.

Both parents and teachers were also more likely to report that pupils with vision impairment were bullied at school.

Dr Tom Pey, chief executive of the RLSB, said: “This report will alarm many, but it’s a story that has gone untold for too long. We must put into sharp relief exactly how challenging the prospects are for so many young children living with sight loss. Progress has been made in improving many young lives, but this report demonstrates that we still haven’t got it totally right.

“Experiences in your early years have a huge significance on the rest of your life, that is why RLSB will now put in place a firm plan of action for early years development which is detailed in our accompanying campaign document, The Untold Story. We are also revolutionising our services in order to give these children a fighting chance to fulfil their ambitions.”

Julie Jennings, head of the RNIB’s children, young people and families team, said: “The report comes at a time when many local authorities are reducing specialist educational support services to blind and partially sighted children. This is of great concern as the results of the survey indicate that these children are more likely than other children to experience economic disadvantage, which in turn is linked to poor educational outcomes.

“Early intervention and ongoing support from specialist teachers and other professionals are key to reducing the risk of poor social, emotional and educational outcomes for children and young people with vision impairment and in helping them to reach their full potential.”