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Brain-related visual problems may affect one in 30 primary school children.

8 February 2021

Dr Cathy Williams publishes findings in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, aiming to raise awareness of CVI among parents and teachers to help them identify signs of the condition earlier.

A brain-related visual impairment, which until recently was thought to be rare, may affect one in every 30 children according to new research investigating the prevalence of Cerebral Visual Impairment [CVI]. The University of Bristol-led findings published today [3 February] in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, aim to raise awareness of CVI among parents and teachers to help them identify signs of the condition earlier.

The brain is just as important as the eyes when it comes to seeing, and many vision problems are caused by areas of the brain that are needed for sight not working properly and cannot be resolved by wearing glasses. Brain-related vision problems include difficulties with moving the eyes, seeing things in the space around (visual field) and recognising objects accurately and quickly.

Dr Cathy Williams, the study’s lead author and Associate Professor in Paediatric Ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences and Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), explained: “While this does not prove that these kind of vision problems are the cause of the difficulties with learning for any particular child, it does suggest that attending to children’s visual needs, such as making things bigger or less cluttered, might be a good place to start. If interventions can work to reduce the impact of these problems on children’s learning, it might improve both educational and wellbeing outcomes for children.”

The authors recommend in future that detailed vision checking of all children who need extra support at school, as well as the existing paediatrician and educational psychology assessments, could improve outcomes for children.

Dr Williams added: “We would like to thank all the teachers, parents and children who helped support this important study, which is part of the CVI project.”

The CVI Project is a five-year programme of NIHR-funded work to investigate how many children have CVI, how best we find them and support them, and what areas of their life are most affected. For information about the project, visit: The CVI Project


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