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NECO Professor Co-directs Conference for Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

Attendees increase skills to measure acuity of patients with intellectual and/or neurodevelopmental disabilities

Over two dozen eye care providers participate in a first of its kind conference on the successful management of care models for individuals with intellectual disabilities and neuro-developmental delays. The conference was facilitated NECO Professor Barry Kran, OD, and BUSM Professor Jean Ramsey, MD, MPH. Dr. Kran also serves as Optometric Director at New England Eye Perkins Low Vision Clinic at the Perkins School in Watertown, MA.

The conference, titled “Successful Eye Care for Patients with Intellectual and Neuro-Developmental Disabilities,” was co-sponsored by New England College of Optometry and the Boston University School of Medicine and held at the BU campus. The lead funder for the meeting was the Reader’s Digest Foundation for Sight, with further support from by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the Boston Center for Blind Children, and by Susan Connors, MD and Andrew Zimmerman, MD.

The program description notes, “Individuals with intellectual and neurodevelopmental delay have increased incidence of refractive, binocular and ocular health complications and are often not under an active care plan of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Over 80% of this population is mildly or moderately visually impaired.” This conference was designed to help eye care practitioners develop a modified approach to care and to develop skills and alternative tools to measure visual acuity as well as other data for patients with intellectual and/or neurodevelopment disabilities.

“This course was the outcome of the work that Dr. Jean Ramsey, MD, Lisa DiBonaventura and I had been involved with regarding eye care and adults with intellectual disability,” explains Dr. Kran. “It also came from the work that Susan Connors, MD and Celia Hinrichs, OD have done with regarding access to competent eye care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through surveys with optometrists and ophthalmologists, we learned that eye care providers don’t have adequate alternative equipment to assess function such as acuity during an eye exam.”

At the conference, optometrists and ophthalmologists received 5.5 hours of continuing education, including one hour of hands on experience collecting data such as acuity using alternative testing paradigms with volunteers from the community and support from NECO and BUSM faculty. This meeting was the first of its kind in North America. Eye care providers left the meeting with alternative acuity testing equipment provide through funding by the MA Department of Developmental Services.

The unique aspects of this program included the joint education of eye care providers (optometrists and ophthalmologists) along with the combination of a didactic and hands-on program. Program committee members Barry Kran, OD, Jean Ramsey, MD (Co-directors), Celia Hinrichs, OD, Susan Connors, MD, and Lisa DiBonaventura, COMS, were excited about the enthusiasm of the audience and are looking forward to the delivery of subsequent online content. In the coming months, attendees will be able to access four additional hours of CE content online.