This is a guide to inform you of who you may meet and their role in your child’s life. This list is not exhaustive, and it also may not be necessary for your child to work with all the professionals listed. If your child is not accessing any of the services provided in the list below then you can ask your GP or paediatrician to make a referral to any of these people. Never be afraid to ask for a referral if you feel accessing these services would be beneficial. Unfortunately, these people are not automatically assigned to your child. It can be a difficult and long process to get everything in place, but early intervention is key.
GP or Family Doctor
Your family doctor (also known as a GP or General Practitioner) is associated with the general health of your child and can advise and arrange further examinations. They will often make referrals on your behalf and should be the first port of call if you have any concerns about your child’s sight.
The paediatrician is a doctor who specialises in child health. They are usually based at the hospital or child development centre. Once seen by a GP, children will often get referred to a paediatrician for further investigation of any health concerns. The paediatrician will see your child regularly for reviews and updates. This is important as they will help point you in the right direction or make referrals to other professionals that can help. They will play a prominent part in your child’s life.
Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors based within a hospital. They have special qualifications and experience in eye disorders and in treating them with appropriate medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist will oversee checking your child’s sight problem, and will also provide registration of the sight impairment. This gives your child access to numerous services which may be more difficult to access if registration is not completed. Find out more about the process in the getting registered section of the Portal.
Every child gets assigned a health visitor either before or shortly after birth. Their role is to visit you at home and monitor the general health and development of your new born. The health visiting service is available until your child is aged 5, and they offer good support to the whole family. The health visitor will help you find services available in your area and offer advice on all areas of child development.
QTVI (Qualified Teacher for the Visually Impaired)
This professional help is made available by your LEA (Local Education Authority). They will help with all aspects of your child’s upbringing in the home and throughout education. All QTVIs are trained teachers who have specialised in working with the visually impaired. You do not have to wait until your child is accessing full time education to utilise a QTVI. They can work with you in the home to get your child’s learning off to a head start and assist childcare providers in a variety of settings. They would have spent their careers working with different children with different sight problems and will be a very prominent person in your life.
Depending on the Local Education Authority, they may be able to offer you the assistance of a mobility officer. Their role is to assist you in encouraging your child to move around independently and will teach them the necessary skills for being mobile. They can potentially work with your child within the home, schools and out in public. They will also aid and teach independent living skills. Again, you do not have to wait until your child is in school to access this person and they will normally work alongside the QTVI.
Early Support Keyworker
An early support keyworker works with families with additional needs and is a service offered by your Local Education Authority. Their role is to help put you in touch with any services they feel will be beneficial to you and your child. They will also assist you in making referrals to relevant professionals and arranging meetings and appointments on your behalf. Your keyworker will come and visit you in your home for progress reports. They can assist with helping to coordinate the professionals to ensure everyone is working collectively.
Special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
A SENCO is the staff member in a school who co-ordinates all the special educational needs provision. In smaller schools, the head teacher or deputy head might be the SENCO. They are responsible for educational psychology, behaviour support and assessment of special educational needs. A SENCO can be offered in educational institutions subject to bursary awards to work one on one with your child.
A learning support assistant or teaching assistant works alongside teachers and QTVI’s in foundation and early years settings. They will work either with the child on a one-to-one basis or within a small group, to ensure the child has the extra support needed.
Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist
The physiotherapist or occupational therapist works with your child using a range of exercises and special equipment to help your child develop physically. Occupational therapists work with children to develop day-to-day activities such as personal care; eating, washing, dressing etc. They can advise on what special equipment and adaptations your house needs to help your child become more independent.
Speech and language therapists
In the event that your child has a delay in their speech and language, these therapists can assist with any communication difficulties. A child with a sight problem will need to use alternative techniques to learn how to talk. Speech and language therapists can assist you and your child with developing effective techniques.
Educational psychologists work with children who have learning, behavioural or emotional difficulties. They will talk to your child and assess him/her as he/she plays to develop strategies to meet his/her educational needs. They can assess any sensory imbalance issues your child may be encountering. Sensory processing disorder is common in children with sight problems but can be addressed from early on to ensure your child has sensory integration tactics in place as treatment. The treatment will normally be provided by an occupational therapist.
Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with SEND and their families. A Portage Worker will aim to work with parents to help them develop a quality of life and experience, for themselves and their young children. They aim to teach families to learn together, play together, participate and be included in their community. Portage plays a part in minimising the disabling barriers that confront young children and their families and support the national and local development of inclusive services for children. You can find out more on their website: www.portage.org.uk.