Tips for Parents of Visually Impaired Children
Diagnosing Vision Problems in Children
Everyone needs regular eye exams. This is particularly important if your child has risk factors or a family history of eye problems. Children need their vision checked at infancy, 6 months, between 3 and 3 1/2 years, and upon entering school, around the age of 5.
You should see your primary health care provider for any of these symptoms of vision problems. He or she can refer you to an eye doctor if needed:
- Redness or swelling in the eye
- Lots of tearing or blinking
- Poor eye alignment
- Frequent rubbing of one or both eyes
- Frequent closing or covering of one eye
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Trouble tracking an object in range of vision
- Tilting the head when trying to focus
- Eyes that appear asymmetric or that show white reflection in photos
These are other possible symptoms of vision problems you may notice in an older child:
- Trouble seeing the blackboard at school (check with your child or child's teacher)
- Sitting very close to the television
- Leaning close to books while reading or doing homework
- Headaches or nausea
Education for Visually Impaired Children
Visually impaired children can have learning problems that range from mild to severe. Their educational needs and options will depend on the nature of their disability.
Under the American Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), visually impaired children are entitled to a "free and appropriate public education." But this doesn't mean that you should simply send visually impaired children off to school and hope for the best. You will need to ensure that your child gets the support she needs to learn and flourish. Here are some suggestions:
Your pediatrician should arrange for your family to be involved in an early intervention program to assess needs further, which might include modification of the environment, physical therapy, or occupational therapy.
- Talk to teachers and administrators at your child's school. Make sure that they understand your child's special issues and that accommodations are being made in the classroom. Additionally a special team may be assigned to develop an IEP and ensure your child’s needs are being met.
- Get a second opinion from a learning specialist if you aren't comfortable with your child's learning environment.
- Check in with your child often to make sure that he or she is thriving at school.
If your child's visual impairment is severe, he or she may need help from other specialists to develop life skills. Specialists in low-vision rehabilitation and mobility are trained to help visually impaired children adapt to their environment and develop independence.
Today, there are also many low-vision devices and adaptive technologies that will help your child communicate, learn, and lead an independent life. Rehabilitation specialists can help find the resources that will be most helpful, given your child's condition.