Visual development in children with Down’s syndrome

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Vision in children with Down syndrome: a research update

J. Margaret Woodhouse

Vision in children with Down syndrome: a research update

Woodhouse JM. Vision in children with Down syndrome: a research update. Down Syndrome News and Update. 2005;4(3);87-89.


At the Down’s Syndrome Vision Research Unit, we have been studying visual development in children with Down’s syndrome since 1992. We have a large group of enthusiastic and highly committed families taking part in our studies, many of whom have been with us since the beginning, and we see over 100 children regularly. Our most significant findings are described below.

Refractive Errors

Long-sight, short-sight and astigmatism are much more common in children with Down’s syndrome than in typical children, and many more will need to wear glasses. Ordinary children are often long or short-sighted in early infancy, but grow out of these errors over the first few years of life. Children with Down’s syndrome start out with a similar range of errors as do ordinary children, but are much less likely to outgrow the errors and much more likely to become more long or short-sighted.

Figure 1. Long and short sight amongst 6 year olds

Figure 2. Near focusing in children

It is important (as for any child in the classroom) that the teacher understands when a child will need his/her glasses, and what level of vision he/she will have both with and without glasses. Long-sight of low to moderate degree can be overcome in typical children by accommodation (active focusing) and not all children who are long-sighted need glasses. However, children with Down’s syndrome, because they have difficulty in focusing (see later), will be much more dependent on their glasses for clear comfortable vision than will typical children. Children who are short-sighted, on the other hand, may be better off without glasses for close work.


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