Queen’s Researchers Collaborate with Guide Dogs NI to Pioneer New Study for Children with Sight Loss
Researchers from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with Guide Dogs NI have conducted a new research study to understand the impact of sight loss on how early movement develops, with the aim of improving movement skills for children with a vision impairment.
Using the state-of-the-art Movement Innovation Lab at Queen’s University, the team were able to capture the movement skills of 43 children, to help understand the challenges children with sight loss have by running skills-based tests for basic movements including balancing, throwing, catching, bouncing and jumping, and comparing these with children who are sighted.
The team compared different groups of children, both sighted and with degrees of vision impairment/sight loss, adapting the tasks for children with vision impairment, for example, by playing a beep noise to indicate where to throw or using balls with bells inside.
The results from the data collected found that the children with full vision and children with a minor vision impairment performed many of the tasks to the same level, however children with a more severe vision impairment found the movement skills tests more difficult.
Dr Matthew Rodger, from the School of Psychology at Queen’s, Principal Investigator for the study, said: “We found that the degree of vision impairment experienced by the children had a substantial impact on their performance in these tasks. Our analysis has helped us identify specific aspects of movements that seem to be affected. We now want to build on this knowledge to investigate if and how sounds can be designed to help children with vision impairment better perform fundamental movement skills.
“Our goal is to help children with a more severe vision impairment carry out everyday tasks by themselves, setting them up for a more independent future.”
Fiona Brown, Head of Mobility Services at Guide Dogs NI, said: “Early development studies show that 80 percent of our learning is done through sight, so children with sight loss need early intervention to replace this and help them meet milestones for basic movement skills. Our collaboration with Queen’s has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of children living with sight loss, right from birth.
“The data that the research provides will be used to inform our work with children and young people, helping us to provide more targeted support for children with sight loss and their families.”
The research, which has been funded by Queen’s Business Alliance Fund and Guide Dogs NI with the support of The Hospital Saturday Fund, will now examine if using a more continuous sound to assist the children with a more severe vision impairment will enable them to carry out movement tasks successfully. The team plan on developing this process technologically to be used in the home or at school.