What Is Childhood Low Vision?
Childhood low vision refers to vision impairment in a person under 21 that cannot be corrected by medical or surgical treatments or conventional eyeglasses. A child can be born with low vision (congenital) or suffer vision loss during childhood. Vision loss can be caused by disease or damage to the eye or to visual areas of the brain.
Low vision may not be suspected in a child, because the symptoms may be attributed to other physical, or genetic conditions. All children whose development is atypical should see an eye doctor with experience in the assessment and treatment of children’s vision as soon as parents or guardians suspect a delay. Regular medical eye exams by an ophthalmologist are important to diagnose eye diseases early. It is important to identify conditions that are treatable.
Having low vision does not mean children cannot learn, but it may mean they need to learn in a different way. A child with low vision may need vision-enhancing devices, changes to the classroom or teaching modified to fit their needs. Services include early intervention for children under 3, occupational therapy and teachers of students with visual impairment (TVI) for school-aged children. These resources can help children succeed in the classroom and promote their independence.
The Experience of Childhood Visual Impairment
It is important to acknowledge the grief, anger and frustration children and their family may feel after a diagnosis of permanent visual impairment. Access to vision rehabilitation services, a teacher of students with visual impairment and appropriate counseling will help the family and child. Counseling and a good support group can help a family and child recognize that the value as a person and the quality of life does not depend solely on vision. It is worth the effort it takes to learn how to make the most of the remaining vision the child has.
Families and children should not isolate themselves. Continued involvement with social, volunteer and school activities (including sports) are important. Many special camps, adaptive sports and education-related activities are available for children with low vision.