February is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month. Low vision has a big impact in educational settings, which makes it important to understand the needs it imposes and what symptoms to watch for in children.
The term low vision includes many different kinds of vision loss that may interfere with a child’s ability to perform daily or educational activities. The child may experience loss of one or more of the following:
- Clear vision
- Central vision
- Peripheral vision
- Depth perception
- Contrast sensitivity
- Ability for the brain to process what the eyes are seeing
Recognizing the Symptoms of Low Vision
Symptoms of certain eye diseases can appear suddenly and quickly worsen. When someone begins to experience low vision symptoms, sometimes they are not fully aware of it. Here are some of the ways a child might demonstrate that they are experiencing low vision:
- Difficulty recognizing faces and facial expressions
- Difficulty accessing information from a distance
- Difficulty identifying small images or letters on paper
- Difficulty moving about safely
Low vision can be diagnosed by an Ophthalmologist if it is caused by eye disease or condition. It is also important to know that vision sometimes appears adequate in a clinical setting yet is impaired in a functional setting such as a dimly lit room, a visually cluttered space, where depth perception is required, or a low-contrast environment.
In school, a Teacher of the Visually Impaired can conduct a Functional Vision Assessment to learn how a child uses any remaining vision. Also, a Learning Media Assessment can be conducted to determine which senses a child primarily uses to get information from the environment. Additionally, an Orientation and Mobility Assessment conducted by a certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist will give information to make specific recommendations for the child to best access learning materials and his or her environment in school and the community.
Tools that Help
Which tools may help child with tasks using his/her vision? Here are some things to keep in mind when considering the environment and activity for a child with low vision:
- Increased contrast in the environment
- Increased contrast of print by using CCTV or screen-magnification software
- Increased room and task lighting
- Assistive technology for writing, reading, using the computer and accessing information
- Additional accommodations personalized to each child to perform activities with limited vision.
To complete tasks without use of vision:
- Braille reading
- Screen-reading software
- Personalized techniques for conducting life skills independently
We Can Help
If you or someone you know has AMD, low vision, or suspect that a child may be demonstrating the symptoms of low vision, please reach out to us by calling 603-224-4039 or emailing [email protected].