One of the research areas of our Optometry Research Group at Ulster involves the investigation of visual processing and optical performance of children with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Techniques such as objective refraction, higher order aberrations, advanced imaging, electrodiagnostic and clinical techniques have furthered our knolwedge and help influence the diagnosis and clinical management of visual disorders in these groups. Ongoing study will further refine our understanding of the impact of developmental disability on visual function, maximize visual outcomes and optimize clinical care.
The team are interested in how knowledge of the atypical visual system can inform what is critical for the typical visual system to develop normally, and what are triggers for amblyopia, anisometropia and atypical refractive errors. Our work involves collaboration with other eye care professionals and researchers as well as stakeholders including parents, schools, paediatricians and teachers of the visually impaired. We recognise the importance of dissemination and translation of research findings beyond the scientific community to practitioners, clinicians, parents and charities and have developed links with all these stakeholders in order to maximise the impact of this research.
The importance of improving clinical assessment and management of patients is also the impetus behind the group's development of a commercial tool for the objective assessment of focusing. The Ulster-Cardiff Accommodation Rule (or UC-Cube), developed in collaboration with colleagues at Cardiff University, is the first commercially available tool that allows rapid, clinical assessment of focusing accuracy without the need for the patient to communicate. This is particularly important when assessing children with special needs as our research and that of others has shown that this group are at high risk for poor focusing which will impact on vision and learning if left undetected and unmanaged. The device provides normative data with which to compare clinical measures. It was launched in 2011 and has received a great deal of interest from the profession.