Early intervention can improve development and reduce mental health issues for babies with visual impairment
Fight for Sight has helped to fund a major national study into the development of babies and young children with severe visual impairment. The study has shown the efficacy of an early intervention programme in helping them to reach important developmental milestones and experience fewer mental health issues.
The results of this research, published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, demonstrate the benefits of DJVI; a set of developmental monitoring and interventionist guidance materials designed by Great Ormond Street Hospital consultants in 2005 specifically for babies and young children with visual impairment. The materials are designed to be used by local practitioners in partnership with parents to help their child through everyday interactions and tasks at home. This has the potential to support up to 450-500 babies born per year with severe visual impairment; of these at least 200 have rare eye disorders (as in this study).
The study was jointly funded by leading medical charities Fight for Sight, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity). Fight for Sight provided a significant financial contribution for this study as a charity dedicated to funding impactful research with clear benefits for patients.
The study followed 100 babies with rare inherited eye disorders and severe visual impairment. The children receiving the DJVI made promising clinically relevant improvements in nonverbal cognition and in expressive language compared with those who received other types of support. In addition, both patients and parents using the DJVI showed significant improvements in behavior and mental health, including a reduction in stress for parents.
Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said: “We focus on funding research that will have a positive impact for patients so we’re delighted that this project could support the development of babies and young children with congenital vision disorders. We hope that this home-based early intervention can be widely adopted in the future to offer direct benefits for children and their parents.”
Dr Naomi Dale, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and lead investigator of the research at GOSH and ICH, said, “Finding out a baby has a visual impairment can have a deep impact on an entire family, and can present challenges to learning, development and mental health for the baby. Until now, we’ve lacked the research to show what kind of intervention and support for babies and parents is most useful. This study is important because it has shown that the Developmental Journal is a promising method for assisting the baby and young child across the early years and supporting their parents too. These findings will help inform how we work with families at GOSH, and their local practitioners to provide the best possible care and support at our hospital and in the patient’s local community.”
Sarah Lambert, Head of Social Change at RNIB, said: “We are delighted that this research confirms what we have long known; structured, high quality intervention - delivered with the support of trained professionals - gives babies and young children with vision impairment the highest chance of achieving their potential. RNIB believes that all children should have access to the best possible support at the earliest opportunity, and that statutory services should be adequately resourced to provide this.”
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