A NORTH-East optometrist who has invented a new device to help test the eyesight of children with Down’s Syndrome is looking for a partner to roll it out across the country.

Simon Berry, who has a practice in Durham, has been working on the idea for almost two years after having difficulty taking accurate eye measurements of children with the condition.

Conventional eye testing equipment to measure focusing ability sits close to the face and encourages children to look directly at a target so the optometrist can take the measurement.

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But children with Down’s Syndrome often find it difficult to hold focus and cannot concentrate for long enough to get an accurate reading.

Mr Berry, who specialises in children’s eye care at his practice in Gilesgate and also works at Sunderland Eye Infirmary, said: “Current devices record measurements slightly off-axis, and if the child is not interested in the target it compounds the problem,

“Children with special needs often have difficulty engaging in the eye test enough to obtain an accurate reading. I felt there had to be a way around the problem.”

Mr Berry approached Durham University’s physics and engineering departments and has been working with engineering students Matt Grozier and Fred Noble, who used a 3D printer to produce the prototype in two weeks.

Using mirrors and glass, it acts as a mini cinema screen to so the child can look at familiar images such as favourite TV characters or even pictures of their own pets.

The prototype has been endorsed by Dr Margaret Woodhouse OBE, senior lecturer and optometrist at Cardiff University and a leading specialist in the visual development of children with Down’s Syndrome, who believes it could solve a real issue in the children’s eye care sector.

The technology has been tested with help from Special iApps, an educational app developer for children with special educational needs.

Mr Berry, who has previously campaigned to change rules on funding to help children with Down’s Syndrome get vouchers for specialist glasses, added: “It has been a very exciting process and the expertise of Durham University, and the help from Special iApps has been invaluable.

“Matt and Fred were quick to understand and address the issues involved, and used the university’s world-class facilities and the expert knowledge of colleagues in the physics and engineering departments to produce the prototype in a very short time span.”

He is now looking for a production partner to help take the device to the market.