Meeting vision needs of children with special educational needs: Case studies of the impact on behaviour and academic achievement.

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Children with learning disabilities often have problems with their eyesight. We tested the eyes of nine children and checked whether they needed glasses or bigger print. We found that when they got what they needed to see better, their behaviour improved. This is important because children with learning disabilities need to be able to see as well as anyone else. Abstract: Background Children with identified special educational needs are at higher risk than other children of having visual needs that are not adequately met. This paper evaluates the impact of addressing the visual needs of these children on behaviour and academic achievements in a number of case studies. Method Nine children (4–11 years of age, from four classrooms), who attended a special school in a medium-sized town in the UK, took part in the case studies reported here. The children were part of the Special Education Eyecare (SEE) Project. Six of the children were selected because they had unmet visual needs at baseline and required bespoke interventions to meet these needs; the other three children were selected because their visual needs had been met prior to the study and no further adjustments were needed. Repeated direct observations were conducted to assess the impact of the intervention on the children's behaviour in the classroom. The observer was “blind” with regard to the visual needs of the participants. Parents and teachers completed the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for each child, before and after the intervention. School files were analysed to assess effects on academic achievement. Findings Subsequent to the implementation of bespoke visual adjustments, for example prescription of spectacles or changed seating in classroom, significant and sustained changes were observed with regard to the children's behaviour (i.e., increased engagement with peers and/or teachers and decreased off-task behaviour). Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire scores showed improvements regarding total difficulties, emotional difficulties, hyperactivity and prosocial (kind and helpful) behaviour. Due to highly variable data in school files, the effects on academic achievement were inconclusive. Discussion The case studies reported here explored changes in behaviour of children with identified special educational needs after their visual needs were met. Findings show a positive overall effect on the behaviour of these children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by Action Medical Research (GN2429), the Vision Translational Research Group (HSC R&D Office, NI) and postgraduate research support from Ulster University and the Department for the Economy. Views expressed are the authors’.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • SDQ
  • applied behaviour analysis
  • behaviour measures
  • in-school vision testing
  • special education
  • vision
  • visual needs


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