Children and Vision Disabilities
- Publish Date: 2013/03/12 - (Rev. 2017/06/25)
- Author: Thomas C. Weiss
- Contact : Disabled World
Outline: Information regarding various eye sight problems a child may develop over time or from birth.
Children may experience a number of different issues with their eyes or vision. Some of these issues are temporary and can be treated, while others are permanent.
Defined as the ability to see; the faculty of vision. Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment by processing information that is contained in visible light. The resulting perception is also known as eyesight, sight, or vision.
Fortunately, some vision issues considered to be permanent can be helped or, 'corrected,' by eye exercises, or by wearing glasses or contact lenses. Not every vision issue can be corrected. When a child's vision issue is permanent and cannot be corrected it is a form of disability and is referred to as a, 'vision impairment.'
There are various degrees of vision impairment ranging from mild loss to blindness. It is important to take your child to a doctor if they complain about sensitivity to light, blurry vision, sore eyes, or if there is a white or colored discharge from their eyes. Children who experience a persistent headache and are unable to concentrate might also have vision issues.
Forms of Vision Impairments
Vision impairment is a concentrate that prevents average vision in one or both of a person's eyes. There are a number of issues with vision such as being long-sighted, near-sighted, experiencing average vision in one eye only or a, 'turned,' eye referred to as, 'strabismus.' Many people experience poor eye sight that may be corrected by wearing glasses or contact lenses, although there are several serious vision issues that cannot be corrected through the use of glasses or contact lenses. Some of the conditions that cannot be corrected with the use of glasses or contact lenses include:
- Nystagmus: Nystagmus involves an involuntary repetitive movement or, 'flicking,' of a person's eyes.
- Usher's syndrome: Usher's syndrome is a genetic disorder that also involves retinitis pigmentosa and hearing loss.
- Retinitis Pigmentosa: Retinitis pigmentosa is a degenerative condition involving a reduction of a person's field of vision.
- Albinism: Albinism is an inherited condition that affects a person's clear vision, causing sensitivity to bright light, direct sunlight, and glare.
- Cataracts: Cataracts involve the lens of a person's eye becoming cloudy. People with cataracts lose clear vision and become sensitive to light.
- Retinophathy of Prematurity (ROP): ROP involves damage to a person's retina and occurs in some babies who are born prematurely and treated with oxygen at birth.
- Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration is when damage happens to a small section of a person's retina inside their eye that allows them to see color and fine detail.
- Blindness: Being blind means that a child does not have vision in one or both of their eyes. Blindness may be due to damage to their eyes, brain, or nerves, or because the child does not have an eye.
- Optic Nerve Damage: Optic nerve damage involves damage to the nerves involving a person's vision. It affects a person's field of vision. Glaucoma is one form of eye condition that may cause optic nerve damage.
A person's level of vision or sight might stay the same over a period of time or it may change. Their eye sight will worsen as part of some conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa or untreated cataracts, develop. The amount of vision loss will affect the type of support a child will need at school, at home, as well as in their own community. In general, people talk about how much vision a child has lost. The terms, 'blindness,' and, 'low-vision,' might be used.
Low-vision is a condition that exists when a person's sight is unable to be corrected to average vision by wearing eye glasses or contact lenses, yet the person has some vision. People who have low-vision are sometimes referred to as being, 'legally blind.' Legally blind is a term that is used to assist with determining who is eligible for government services and benefits. Two main types of vision issues may cause low-vision. They involve a person's, 'vision field,' and, 'visual acuity.'
Visual Acuity: Visual acuity involves the clarity of a person's sight. People who have low-vision may have issues with seeing objects clearly. They many times have trouble seeing printed words and might need to have very large print or highly magnified glasses in order to read.
Vision Field: Vision field involves a person's range of sight. How much a person is able to see while they are looking straight ahead is referred to as their, 'visual field.' Usually, this is a field of 180 degrees. When looking straight ahead, a person is able to see items that are on either side to a line that is parallel to their shoulders. Vision issues related to vision field may mean that the width or height of that a person is able to see is reduced. It may be like looking through a telescope. The person is only able to view items that are straight ahead; things that are to the side, above, or below of them are ones the person cannot see. At times, there will be blank spots in a portion of what the person is able to see. They will have an incomplete picture in the same way a camera with a dirty lens will record only a portion of the scene.
Vision Impairment Causes
A number of causes of vision loss may affect different parts of a person's eye. These causes of vision loss can include the following:
- Vision impairment may be present from the time of a person's birth referred to as, 'congenital.'
- Vision impairment might also develop later in a person's life due to illness, accident, or disease.
- If left untreated, some forms of conjunctivitis may cause permanent damage to a person's vision such as, 'trachoma.'
- Other forms of disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, or Down syndrome may be associated with vision impairment.
- Some people inherit genetic conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, Usher's syndrome, or albinism that cause vision impairment to develop over a period of time.
Treatment of Vision Issues
Some vision issues can be treated, for example; when a person experiences cataracts a surgeon may replace their cloudy lens with an artificial one. Blindness and degenerative conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa are unfortunately not curable. Eye specialists have the ability to provide you with more information regarding treatments that might be effective for your child's vision issues. At times, people who experience vision impairments can be helped by large print or technology such as digital magnification, scanners, or closed circuit television.
Braille is a system of reading by touch used by people who are blind. It is also used by people who have the ability to see light but not shape, or by those who have difficulty seeing words - even in large print. The letters or symbols used when writing in Braille are formed by various dot patterns. The dots are molded on the page so the person has the ability to feel the patterns of each letter or word.
'Deafblindness,' or Dual-sensory Loss
The combination of vision and hearing loss is many times referred to as, 'dual-sensory loss.' The majority of children with dual-sensory loss have some hearing or sight; very few are both profoundly deaf and completely blind. The term, 'deaf-blind,' is used in relation to children who are totally blind and profoundly deaf. Some people also use the term when referring to children who experience both a significant hearing loss and a significant loss of vision, yet might have some degree of either or both senses. People will have different needs depending on how their vision and hearing disabilities affect them specifically.
Helping Children with Vision Disabilities at Home
You can do some different things to help a child that experiences a vision disability in your home. The things you can do include:
- For children who experience a serious vision impairment, pay attention to the placement of furniture.
- Make sure that large or bulky furniture, or furniture with sharp edges, is not placed in regular pathways.
- Families can develop helpful habits such as ensuring that drawers and doors are not left open and that chairs are pushed under tables.
- For children who experience low-vision, make the home safer by checking that lighting is appropriate in each area of the home.
Getting Help for Children with Vision Impairments
A vision impairment might affect a child's general development. You may want to get involved in, or receive support from, an early intervention program that has the ability to assist children and their family members to encourage development in some different areas. These areas include the following.
Motor Skills: Poor vision might decrease a baby's ability to explore in the important first 12 months of their development. What this may mean is that it could take longer for the child to crawl or walk. Early intervention, physiotherapy, or occupational therapy might be helpful.
Sensory Development: 'Sensory development,' refers to the development of a child's senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. At times, a person who experiences a vision impairment may be frightened by new experiences that involve different sounds or textures. A person who has a vision impairment may find it hard to develop body awareness as well. Early intervention, along with physiotherapy or occupational therapy, can help.
Communication and Social Skills: A number of conversations start when people make eye contact, or use some type of signal such as a wave or a welcoming smile. People who experience a vision impairment might not always recognize the efforts of others to communicate with them because they are not aware that another person is looking, waving, or smiling at them. People might need to work out ways of getting their attention through touch or sound instead.
Children who have a vision impairment might also need assistance with learning social skills that are expected during conversations. They may need to learn to face a speaker and, when it is appropriate, enter a conversation. They might also need to be taught about the body postures or facial expressions that others expect from them during conversations.
Parents, teachers, as well as friends may help by using words instead of gestures. For example, it is important to say the word, 'goodbye,' instead of waving, or to speak the word, 'yes,' instead of responding with a simple nod of the head. Speech pathologists and specialist teachers can provide assistance.
Self-help Skills: Children with a vision impairment will not notice and copy what other people are doing. Due to this fact, their self-help skills may develop more slowly and might require specific teaching. Fine motor skills to manage shoe laces, buttons, or zippers may need additional practice. Early intervention, teachers, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists can all help.
Agencies for vision impairment, hospitals, as well as community health centers might offer early intervention services, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and physiotherapy services. A number of specialist disability agencies and educational departments have early intervention or special education programs.
Children with Vision Impairment, Preschool and School
Teachers in preschools and schools think about changes that must be made to the environment and programs to help children with vision impairments. The changes might involve the types of books, equipment, and games used. Teachers may also consider changes to the preschool or classroom furniture and the placement of the furniture. Once at school, teachers will discuss any needs for reading aids, large print, orientation and mobility training, keyboard skills, and other types of technologies.
Depending upon the specific needs of a child with a vision impairment, teachers might get additional help in the preschool or classroom. They may also receive advice from visiting teachers. Parents can help teachers by giving them all needed and up-to-date information concerning their child's vision; it will help teachers to choose appropriate teaching methods.
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