What is Vision Impairment?
Vision impairment is a term that covers many vision problems as well as different kinds of vision loss. Children with vision loss experience the world in a different way from other children. Vision impairment means lots of different things. It can range from no vision (blindness) or very low vision to not being able to see particular colours. Vision impairment can happen at any age.
What is low vision?
Low vision is when your child can’t see all the things he should be able to see for his age.
What is blindness?
A child is considered legally blind when he/she can’t see at 6 m what a child with normal vision can see at 60 m, or if her field of vision is less than 20° in diameter (a person with normal vision can see 180°). Severe vision loss (blindness) can mean that some parts of your child’s development and learning will be slower than for other children. For example, your child is slower in learning to roll over, crawl, walk, speak and be social with others, your child is slower in learning how to play, achieve cognitive milestones and use their hands effectively. Your child’s ability to do all these things should come with time and assistance.
Causes of Vision Impairment
There are multiple causes of vision impairment in children . These include genetic conditions, damage or injury to the eye or to the pathways connecting the eye to the brain or to the visual centre of the brain. Your baby might have vision impairment at birth. It can also happen later as a result of disease, injury or a medical condition.
The most common causes of vision impairment are:
- neurological conditions that affect the parts of the brain that control sight (cortical vision impairment CVI)
- genetic conditions such as Albinism and retinitis pigmentosa.
If you think your child has vision problems, it’s very important to visit your doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. The GP will probably send you to a Paediatric Ophthalmologist. The Ophthalmologist will be able to examine your child and do tests to work out what the problem is.
How is physical development affected if a child has a vision impairment?
A child with vision impairment may have:
- delayed gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, walking and reaching out for objects.
- delayed fine motor skills, for example, picking objects up and manipulating objects with fingers and hands
- adopt a “head down” posture and have poor body awareness
- poor confidence to move in her environment
- difficulties with balance
- hypotonia and poor posture
- other sensory issues such as tactile defensiveness (eg. your child might be afraid to touch certain textures or explore areas they can't see )
- have acute sensitivity to noise.
What Therapies for Kids can do
- assist you to devise alternative incentives to develop gross motor skills
- assist you to devise alternative incentives to develop fine motor skills
- develop body and spatial awareness
- assist with developing balance
- assist with proprioception and sensory issues
- develop movement and language through co-active demonstration and play
- work with a mobility instructor to help develop independence in walking
- assist your child to find ways to get involved in games and sports with peers
- develop some strength-building activities into daily life
- advise on toys and equipment necessary for the home, school and other important environments.
What you can do
Engage your child in exploring their environment using whatever vision they have - and linking the vision they have with all other senses – this will help spark their curiosity about the world around them. Providing opportunities for sensory play, to introduce new textures in a graded way and provide experiences to practice balance and independent mobility. You can help your child find ways to get involved in games and sports with peers, and also to get some strength-building activities into daily life.