Senior tutor of Optometry, Mrs Urvashni Nirghin, has designed an innovative chart that can be used to measure reading rates in normal sighted and low vision primary school children.

The chart, which is a measure of fluency that reflects reading performance levels, especially in children, and not typically measured during routine eye examinations, arose out of Nirghin’s research for which she earned her Masters degree cum laude at a recent Graduation ceremony.

In designing the paediatric rate of reading chart, she had to take into consideration that the chart required words specifically chosen from children’s books.  She did this by randomly selecting the most frequently used words from the first English books used in five primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

Nirghin said children undergoing an optometric examination can present with a range of visual problems and therefore the design included a range of print sizes for normally sighted and low vision children.

‘While I may be passionate about optometry, I am also passionate about helping children, especially those with specific challenges. So this gave me the idea of designing the rate of reading chart which can be used by optometrists to assess the reading ability of children with normal sight and low vision.’

Nirghin said that in order for the test chart to be used by optometrists with confidence, both the reliability and validity of the chart had to be determined. ‘In addition, the trial use of the chart was tested on a selected number of low vision children,’ said Nirghin.

Nirghin said she was fortunate to have Professor Ola Oduntan as a supervisor. ‘He has such a wealth of experience and is also so passionate about optometry and research.  He was readily available to offer his guidance at any time and always provided timeous feedback. In his supervision, he was extremely thorough which ensured the accuracy and high quality of my research.’

Nirghin worked in private practice for 11 years before joining the Discipline of Optometry, initially as a part-time staff member. ‘Being in an academic environment has really stimulated my interest in research, and I have been inspired by the research abilities and productivity of my supervisor, Mr Percy Mashige, who heads the Discipline, and Professor Sabiha Essack, the Dean and Head of School.’

Apart from lecturing, Nirghin continues her involvement in clinical supervision at the Discipline’s Eye Clinic, as well as community-based vision screening at the various Department of Education schools and orphanages.

‘The University has provided me with opportunities to enhance my teaching ability as well as my research skills, and access to resources.  The niche area that I have chosen to focus my research on is paediatric vision which is the area that I currently lecture in and believe will facilitate my development as an “expert in this field”.’

author email :