1. ITV Report

New study aims to help improve movement in blind children

A new study at Queen’s University is looking at how the use of sound can help blind or partially sighted children develop better movements.

Twelve-year-old Tiernan Devine from west Belfast is one of 44 children who have been having fun all in the name of research.

He is totally blind and is helping scientists explore the challenges children like him face when they move.

“I enjoy it, there was a tube and the ball was going down the tube, and then I was throwing the ball from the tube, then there was throwing a bean bag at the target which was fun,” he said.

This type of study is the first of its kind.

It uses motion capture, with cameras being used to chart how the children move when carrying out specially designed activities.

“We attach these little bobbles, reflective markers to different parts of the body, and the cameras can find where they are in the room accurately and so that’s what gives us the data to understand movement skills,” Dr Matthew Rodger from Queen's University, Belfast explained.

“What we are trying to do with this project is to get a clearer picture of exactly what’s going on with movements, what are the challenges that they face, what are the reasons for those and to get an understanding so that we can help these children to get more mobility, more self-reliance and hopefully have a better life as a result.”

Guide Dogs Northern Ireland is also helping with the research.

Fiona Brown, from the charity, said: “All those movements that we take for granted, if a child doesn’t develop those skills at an early enough stage, it can have lifelong consequences for their physical development.”

Matthew and his team have two years of research to complete and by the end of it they hope it will help children who are blind or partially sighted lead more fulfilled and independent lives.