An early intervention programme has been shown to be effective in helping babies and young children with severe visual impairment reach developmental milestones and experience fewer mental health issues.

Led by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the UCL Great Ormond Institute of Child Health (ICH), the study revealed improvements for babies and young children whose community healthcare teams used the Developmental Journal for babies and young children with visual impairment (DJVI).

DJVI is a set of developmental monitoring and interventionist guidance materials designed by GOSH consultants in 2005. They have been designed to be used through a partnership of local practitioners and parents to help children through everyday interactions and tasks at home.

The study followed 100 babies with rare inherited eye disorders and severe visual impairment. The children receiving the DJVI made improvements in nonverbal cognition and in expressive language compared with those who received other types of support.

The results, published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, have the potential to help up to 450-500 babies born per year with sever visual impairment.

Commissioned by RNIB, which jointly funded the research with Fight for Sight and GOSH’s Children’s Charity, the project was originally developed to support effective early years services for babies and young children with severe visual impairment.

Dr Naomi Dale, consultant clinical psychologist and lead investigator of the research at GOSH and ICH, said: ‘Finding out a baby has a visual impairment can have a deep impact on an entire family, and can present challenges to learning, development and mental health for the baby. Until now, we’ve lacked the research to show what kind of intervention and support for babies and parents is most useful.

‘This study is important because it has shown that the Developmental Journal is a promising method for assisting the baby and young child across the early years and supporting their parents too.’