Ocular disorders in children with learning disabilities in a tertiary Hospital, Pondicherry
Aim: To assess the visual function of the children with disabilities and to identify the preventable and treatable ocular abnormalities.
Materials and Methods: This was a cross sectional hospital based study which included the children aged between 3 to 16 years with learning disabilities (cLDs, previously referred to as mentally challenged) who were on speech and occupational therapy sessions. After consent from parents or guardian who accompanied the child, relevant medical history was taken. Detailed ocular examination, visual acuity assessment, cycloplegic retinoscopy of all children was done. Spectacles and low vision aids were prescribed appropriately.
Results: A total of 116 children with learning disabilities were enrolled. There were 79 (68.1%) males as compared to 37 (31.9%) females in the study. Eighty eight children (76%) had ocular disorder, 31 children had more than one ocular abnormality and 51 of them were not cooperative for assessment. The most common ocular disorders seen in these children were 48 (54.5%) children had refractive errors, strabismus in 17 (19.3%) children, followed by nystagmus in 15 (17%) children, Only 7 of the 48 children (14.6%) with refractive error were using spectacles.
Conclusion: The prevalence of ocular abnormalities is higher among the children with disabilities than in general population. Their flawed verbal, poor communication and cooperation add on to the burden of their disabilities as the ocular abnormalities go unnoticed. Therefore there is a need for strategies regarding increasing awareness, annual comprehensive ophthalmic assessments, early detection and treatment of the ocular disorders to assist these children in their learning process.
Keywords: Children with learning disabilities, Refractive error, Strabismus, Special needs.