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Source: University of Waterloo

Young volunteers needed for vision and Down syndrome UW research project

October 12, 2006

(Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006) -- A University of Waterloo research team seeks
young volunteers with Down syndrome for a new vision research project at the
school of optometry.

Dr. Susan Leat, a UW professor of optometry, heads the project studying the
impact of bifocal glasses on vision and perception as well as educational
progress in children and teenagers with Down syndrome.

The project, entitled Bifocal Provision in Children with Down Syndrome, is
recruiting participants aged six to 18 years old. To participate, call Leat
at 519-888-4567 ext. 32040 or email leat at The project has
received ethics clearance from UW's office of human research.

In her research, Leat has already shown that up to 80 per cent of children
with Down syndrome have a reduced ability to see clearly for close tasks
such as reading and writing.

Bifocals can give clear vision at distance and for near tasks. Also,
bifocals may improve the early reading skills of children with Down
syndrome, thereby improving school performance. Leat's previous experience
demonstrates that they perform well with bifocals when prescribed in a
clinical setting.

Leat said that reading and perceptual skills, along with aspects of vision,
will be measured before children are given new bifocal glasses, and at 6 and
12 months after.

"We expect to show that there is a significant improvement in early reading
and perceptual skills with bifocal glasses, compared with the usual rate of
development in these children," Leat said.

"This is a novel study -- there are no previous studies of the impact of
bifocals on early reading in children with Down syndrome -- and it may have
a large impact on the standard of clinical eye care for children with Down

The new project is funded by the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, in France. In
the study, Leat collaborates with professors Mary Ann Evans, of the
University of Guelph, and Patricia Cleave, of Dalhousie University.

Leat's research interests include low vision, vision-related quality of
life, low vision rehabilitation and development of vision tests for young

UW's school of optometry offers the only English-speaking optometric
training in Canada. The school operates a low vision clinic, which provides
a comprehensive range of vision rehabilitation services.



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