Students with low vision have unique learning needs; that is, each student has his or her own needs. This course explores various topics related to school-age children with low vision and the U. S. educational system



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Meet Jonathan

Jonathan is 14 and in eighth grade. During daylight hours, he has good visual acuity for reading books and viewing printed materials at a distance. But his visual field, or the amount of area he can see, is limited. If he is unfamiliar with the layout of a room or a school route, he may bump into obstacles or people. Although Jonathan reads print well, he is learning braille because his visual impairment is progressive. It is anticipated that he will lose more visual field over time.

Did you notice Jonathan can read and view printed materials at a distance? This means he has usable visual acuity, but has problems with the amount of area he can see. His visual field is limited. Because Jonathan is functionally low vision, he uses a combination of print and braille to get his information.

The terms legally blind, legally partially sighted, functionally blind, and functionally low vision are useful for gaining services for children with low vision. But it is important to remember these terms do not define exactly how the child with low vision sees.

It is also helpful to clarify the terms visual function and visual efficiency. Both terms have different meanings: a medical meaning, and an educational and rehabilitational meaning:


  • Visual function in an educational and rehabilitational setting refers to a person's ability to do a visual task, such as fixate on an object or track a moving object.

  • Visual function in a medical setting refers to the functions of the eye that can be measured, such as acuity and visual field.

  • Visual efficiency in an educational and rehabilitational setting refers to how well a person with low vision uses his or her functional vision.

  • Visual efficiency in a medical setting refers to having no limitations on visual ability.

This course uses these terms according to their definitions in the educational and rehabilitational settings.

Definition of Low Vision

Low vision is not simply a clear-cut clinical diagnosis. Many factors affect how a child with low vision actually sees and is able to best use his or her vision. In fact, low vision is often defined differently from context to context. This lesson, however, presents a helpful working definition of low vision by Anne Corn and the late Alan Koenig. They describe a person with low vision as:

A person who has difficulty accomplishing visual tasks, even with prescribed corrective lenses, but who can enhance his or her ability to accomplish these tasks with the use of compensatory visual strategies, low vision and other devices, and environmental modifications.

This definition provides a positive approach to helping children with low vision succeed. It recognizes that these children are neither fully sighted nor fully blind, and that corrective lenses do not restore full sight. It allows for differences in how people with low vision use their vision. Furthermore, it focuses on finding ways to maximize a person's visual ability.



Section Review

Select the best item to answer each of the following questions.

1. Which of the following does NOT necessarily restore full sight to those with low vision?

a. glasses

b. contact lenses

c. both (a) and (b)

The correct answer is (c). Both glasses and contact lenses do not restore full sight to those with low vision.

2. Which of the following is TRUE about children with low vision?

a. All children with low vision can easily recognize faces.

b. Some children may remove their glasses, finding them not helpful.

c. Children with low vision do not need travel aids.

The correct answer is (b). It is true that some children with low vision take off their glasses, finding them not helpful, or may use glasses and still not have full vision.

3. Which of the following factors can play a role in how families perceive a diagnosis of low vision?

a. family culture and values

b. family location

c. family size

The correct answer is (a). Family culture and values can play a role in how families perceive a diagnosis of low vision.

4. Families coming to terms with a diagnosis of low vision may have questions about which of the following?

a. how their child's vision will change in the future

b. what adaptation needs to be made to help their child see better

c. both (a) and (b)

The correct answer is (c). Families coming to terms with a diagnosis of low vision ask:



  • How does my child see?

  • What adaptations and accommodations need to be made to help my child see better?

  • How will my child's vision change in the future? Will my child eventually become completely blind?

5. Which of the following is TRUE about defining low vision?

a. No two children with low vision see exactly alike.

b. The terms legally blind and functionally blind define low vision.

c. Low vision is defined through a clear-cut clinical diagnosis.

The correct answer is (a). Children with low vision are a varied group. No two children with low vision see alike. They may function differently even when eye conditions are the same.

6. The definition of legal blindness involves which of the following factors?

a. a visual acuity of 20/200 or less with best correction in the better eye

b. a visual field no greater than 20 degrees in the better eye

c. either (a) or (b)

The correct answer is (c). Individuals clinically diagnosed as legally blind have either a visual acuity of 20/200 or less with best correction in the better eye or a visual field no greater than 20 degrees in the better eye.

7. The definition of low vision from Anne Corn and Alan Koenig is very helpful because of which of the following?

a. The nature of low vision differs from child to child.

b. It focuses on finding ways to maximize a person's visual ability.

c. both (a) and (b)

The correct answer is (c). The definition of low vision from Anne Corn and Alan Koenig is very helpful because the nature of low vision differs from child to child and the definition focuses on finding ways to maximize a person's visual ability.

This section discussed some important misconceptions and perceptions about children with low vision. It also defined common terms associated with low vision and provided a helpful definition of low vision. The next section will explore the various factors that affect how a child with low vision uses his or her vision.



Factors That Contribute to Low Vision

As the previous section described, children with low vision are indeed a varied group. This section identifies some general factors that can affect vision. Then it presents the model of visual functioning created by Dr. Anne Corn. The model organizes the factors that affect visual functioning.



General Factors That Affect Vision

Recognizing that children with low vision are unique in how they see and what they are able to do becomes key in understanding low vision. The gray area between full sightedness and full blindness is referred to as the "neither fish-nor-fowl" phenomenon. The term is further explored in a later lesson. This gray area, however, can lead to much confusion for everyone about what the child is able to see and visually do. For example, a child with low vision may:



BUT

  • NOT need assistance traveling in certain conditions, even though he or she carries a white cane


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