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Children with Down's Syndrome 'try to see but fail to focus'

It is the first time such a study has been carried out specifically on children with Down's syndrome 
Michael McHugh, PA

CHILDREN with Down's syndrome fail to focus correctly on objects which are close to them, researchers at Ulster University have said.

Those affected are known to be visual learners but from an early age they can have vision problems.

Ulster University research findings revealed the children aligned their eyes well but failed to focus correctly on a near object.

Dr Julie Anne Little said: "Our research clearly found that children with Down's syndrome try to see but fail to focus. Future research should now explore the possibility of a neurological or muscular anomaly in optics of the Down's syndrome eye.

"This promises great potential in leading to a breakthrough in better vision solutions for the hundreds of thousands of people in the world who have Down's syndrome."

In Down's syndrome, cells carry an extra copy of chromosome 21, leading to learning difficulties which can vary from mild to severe.

The three-year study involved 41 participants with Down's syndrome aged 6-16 years who in the majority (75 per cent) had problems focusing. This was compared with 76 typically developing children.

It is the first time such a study has been carried out specifically on children with Down's syndrome, the UU researchers said.

They used sophisticated techniques to study how the children moved their eyes and viewed objects while looking at an animated movie. They evaluated all three aspects of near vision simultaneously including eye movements, pupils and focusing.

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