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Children’s Head Models Useful for Dispensing Training

Life-like models of children’s heads would be a useful training tool when teaching budding optometrists and dispensers to fit and dispense spectacles for children, according to Tim Haigh, Program Coordinator of Optical Dispensing at RMIT in Melbourne.

The concept has been introduced in the United Kingdom by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) to better equip eye care professionals with the skills required to perfectly fit glasses to children of all ages.

“While optometrists and dispensing opticians understand the theory behind paediatric dispensing, the actual hands-on practicalities of it are often not explored while studying,” ABDO members’ support manager, Barry Duncan has stated. “It’s not uncommon for practitioners to be expected to hit the ground running with this patient group.”

Similarly in Australia, optometrists and dispensers learn the finer art of fitting and dispensing children’s spectacles on the job. “A special needs component of the course does cover children’s fitting and dispensing (among other topics) but most skills are gained from practical experience,” said Mr. Haigh.

It’s not uncommon for practitioners to be expected to hit the ground running.

He said the profession needs more hands-on experience in the area because there are inherent risks associated with incorrectly fitting and dispensing children for spectacles. “Correct frame and lens selection is critical to the performance of the spectacles and the outcome for the child. For instance, spectacles that slide down a child’s nose can lead to prismatic and prescription errors. The fact that a child’s PD will change as they grow also needs to be kept in mind when fitting spectacles and arranging reviews,” he said.

In the UK, the ABDO has created models based on a one-year-old, an eight-year-old and a five-year-old with Down’s syndrome features. Sixty per cent of children with Down’s syndrome require vision correction and unlike most children, their refractive errors will remain the same or deteriorate as they mature. ABDO has three identical models of each subject. It hopes to add to the collection with models from more age groups and ethnicities.

The models are used to teach paediatric dispensing and fitting skills in a tightly packed one hour workshop with topics that include the consideration of facial dimensions, spectacle prescription, the ‘fitting triangle’ and how each of these elements impacts the dispensing decision. Additionally the workshop covers tips for fitting and explores the ramifications of inappropriate dispensing and fitting.

Murray O’Brien, President of the Australian Optical Dispensers Association Victoria said the ADBO’s solution to training eye care professionals in the art of children’s spectacle fitting and dispensing is “fantastic”. “They take the training of dispensing opticians very seriously and this is just one example of that. Without a compulsion for training such as licensing there is not much hope of the situation improving here.”

However Mr. Haigh said that while RMIT University’s current optical dispensing course is “jam packed” with functional dispensing and ophthalmic optics there is some hope for a greater focus on teaching children’s dispensing. “The Health Services Training Package is currently under review, so right now is a good time for the industry to consider all of these topics and have input into the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing,” he said, adding that models of children’s heads would also be useful for use in ongoing continued professional development.


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