The 1st of August 2018 marked yet another critical step towards better ophthalmic diagnosis and treatment of children for an institution which could be credited with starting an exclusive paediatric ophthalmology unit and extending specialized diagnosis and treatment to this delicate segment. The day marked the inaugural of the ‘Special Children Clinic’ a special facility with suitable infrastructure and processes within the department to effectively examine a large sub-group among this category of paediatric patients. Broadly termed as ‘Special Children’ they consisted of children with vision problems effected by various mental and physical disabilities, children who cannot express themselves the way normal kids do and hence cannot be subjected to regular paediatric ophthalmic examination that work for normal children, children who need special attention and functional assessment.
The ‘Special Children Clinic’ being opened had been a long time dream of the institution and having the facility inaugurated by Professor Peter Allen made it a case of ‘right man in the right place opening the right facility’ to quote the words of Dr. Jameel Rizwana Hisaindeen, HOD – Binocular vision/ Vision therapy clinic, Sankara Nethralaya, a key architect of the facility. Dr. Viswanathan S. HOD, Optometry and Optical services, Sankara Nethralaya, an expert in Myopia and another moving force behind the formation of the clinic introduced the star speaker of the day Dr Peter Allen, Professor of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Head of Visual Function and Physiology Research Group, Anglia Ruskin University, UK
The chief guest’s oration on the topic ’Management of Visual issues in Dyslexia & Sports Vision’ proved to be a cascade of facts by the unrivalled expert in the field. Dr Allen explained the difficulties faced by ‘Special Children’ in reading, writing and spelling, he spoke in length on conditions like dyslexia which is neurological in origin, phonological issues that make recognizing letters difficult, the expert spoke on the causes, prevalence and care giving to such patients, adding that such challenges were often misinterpreted as a sign of low IQ while intelligence had little to do with it and often such ‘Special Children’ were quite intelligent. He underlined that while in the UK such conditions were screened/diagnosed by a psychologist, the same could be better managed if perceived as a multi factorial issue which needs a multidisciplinary approach combining the expertise of a child psychologist, special teacher, paediatric ophthalmologist and optometrist. He explained that while Binocular stress and visual instability could be typical optometric manifestations among the effected segment other typical symptoms could be reading difficulty, eye fatigue, constant rubbing of the eyes by the child, need to bring the written matter close to the eyes while reading and poor concentration, he added that such patients often exhibited optometric anomalies like absence of strabismus, squint, lack of evidence of decongested heterophoria, absence of convergence insufficiency, hence the issue needed an individualized, evidence based approach involving clinical optometry and clinical trials.
Speaking on the occasion Dr. Rizwana acknowledged the role of world famous Geneticist Dr Kumaramanickavel and Ms Kalpa Negiloni, Senior Research Optometrist at Sankara Nethralaya and lecturer at the Elite School of Optometry in the inception of the clinic. She recalled that the deliberation at EIVOC 2010 and 2016 laid the early seeds to the formation of the facility.
Dr Namita Jacob working with several national & international organizations in the areas of sensory impairments, multiple disabilities & early childhood development was the special guest of the function, hailed the new initiative as a ‘Fantastic Thing’ describing it as a boon for kids with autism, down’s syndrome and other conditions, she said that the facility being inaugurated was her dream since year 2003 and it was her good fortune that she met people like Dr. Kumaramanickavel and Dr Krishna Kumar, Principal, Elite School of Optometry who empathized with her cause and shared her concern for this group’s special needs. The critical role of Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan, Senior Consultant, Paediatric Ophthalmology dept, Sankara Nethralaya as the guru and guide to the forming of the institution and the person who raised the necessary funds for starting the facility were recalled with gratitude at the inaugural of the special facility where paediatric ophthalmologists and paediatric optometrists would join hands in dispensing ‘special eye care’ to ‘Special children’