A mother has given high praise to an opticians in Belle Vale following the care given to her two children, one who has Downs Syndrome and another with significant sight loss in one eye.

Katie Brookes who lives a few miles from the Belle Vale Specsavers store, wrote to the team to share words of thanks after her two daughters had eye examinations there earlier this month.

Her youngest daughter Alice, age two, has Downs Syndrome, which means it can be daunting to take her into a public or retail environment.

Exceptionally warm welcome

She visited the store for a routine check-up. Katie said that as soon as they arrived, they were greeted with a warm and friendly welcome. Staff encouraged Alice to explore her surroundings, even including the glasses on-display in the store. Katie said: ‘Alice is only two years old and loves to wander off and touch everything around her.

Her condition means she is more sensitive to new environments and being free to explore makes her feel more at ease, which is important given she was there for an eye check, which could’ve been quite a stressful experience.

‘It’s so rare to come across a retailer that makes such an effort to ensure a child with Downs Syndrome is comfortable. On many occasions, we’ve had to leave shops because of the negative attitudes we have faced.’

Staff are trained to deal with customers with a range of needs

Adam Ormrod, optical director at the store, said: ‘we deal with such a wide range of customers here at the store and recognise those who may need a more sensitive, considerate approach. ‘Here at Specsavers in Belle Vale, I am keen to ensure we are equipped to deal with anyone who walks through our doors, whatever their needs.

So to help with this, supported by Specsavers, I completed learning difficulties pathway training and shared some of the learnings with staff afterwards.’

Thanks to making Alice feel at ease, Adam was then able to do all of the required eye checks and could confirm all was well.

A second visit

After feeling so welcome the first time around, a few days later Katie returned to the store to take her other daughter, Emily, aged five, for her first ever eye test. Katie says: ‘I went out of my way to go back to Specsavers in Belle Vale following my positive experience with Alice. Adam treated us again, and during Emily’s eye test he discovered she has very weak sight in one eye, something that had gone unnoticed for all of her childhood so far.’

Emily had been using her good eye to compensate for her weak eye, something that is not uncommon, and can go undetected in children like her for years, often until a sight test reveals an issue.

Significant sight loss detected

Katie continues: ‘I was so shocked and also a little upset to receive this news as she’d shown no other signs of an issue with her sight. I was so glad we were back at Specsavers in Belle Vale – the staff were just fantastic with us again, particularly around taking the time to reassure me this was really difficult to detect at Emily’s age without an eye test.’

Emily was prescribed glasses and as an extra precaution the store referred her to the hospital to attend an appointment to carry out additional, but routine checks, confirming there were no signs of any further health issues.

Director and Dispensing Optician Mathew Robinson, who dispensed Emily’s glasses, continues: ‘It’s a really rewarding part of our jobs here to be able to treat children and help to correct any sight loss or just keep a check on their eye health as we did for Emily and Alice.

Regular sight tests for children are very important as if left undetected, sight and eye health issues can become worse and even untreatable. ‘We know it can be quite stressful and sometimes upsetting for parents when we do find an issue, which is why we ensure our staff are as compassionate and caring as possible in these situations’.

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