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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Children often have different visual abilities even when eye conditions are the same. For example, one child with a particular eye condition may be able to read print easily and efficiently. But another child with the same visual condition may need to use both braille and print for reading, depending on the assignment, the time of day, and the child's adaptability.

Therefore, it is very important to recognize the different factors that affect the visual function, or visual abilities, of children with low vision. Some general factors that affect how a child with low vision can see include the child's:

  • physical environment for daily activities

  • onset of the visual impairment, that is, whether it occurred at birth or later

  • amount of vision

  • individual abilities

  • individual makeup

  • psychological well-being

  • level of independence

In the following case study, Juan and Mike have the same visual diagnosis but use their vision differently.

Meet Juan and Mike

Juan and Mike are in upper elementary school and have cataracts, which have greatly reduced their visual acuity. Juan uses his functional vision to complete his schoolwork and participate in sports such as swimming. He travels and does many daily living tasks independently. His visual impairment is not easily noticed.

Mike, despite being intelligent, depends on his siblings for help with schoolwork and daily living tasks. He seeks to be excused from certain physical activities and does not try to use his vision to accomplish things on his own.

Did you notice how, despite their same eye condition, these two boys have very different visual functioning? Their individual abilities, makeup, psychological well-being, and level of independence were significant factors in what they could or could not accomplish with their vision.

Corn's Model of Visual Functioning

Dr. Anne Corn designed a model of visual functioning that organizes and explains the various factors involved with functional vision. According to this model, the factors fall into three main categories:

  • environmental cues

  • visual abilities

  • stored and available individuality

The model also shows how these three categories influence each other. A factor of each category must be present for a child to be able to use functional vision. Knowledge of which factors affect a student's vision helps determine which low-vision accommodations the child will benefit most from. Lesson 3 will explain how eye specialists assess children with low vision for the various factors described here.

Environmental Cues

The first category is environmental cues, which provide information about a person's surroundings. Environmental cues include color, contrast, illumination, time, and space.

Color has three attributes: hue, brightness, and saturation. Hue refers to the names of the specific colors of the light spectrum, such as red, blue, and yellow. Brightness is the intensity of color on a particular surface as compared to surrounding surfaces. Saturation refers to the differences in intensity of a particular color.

Contrast includes intensity, tone, and color. Examples of high contrast include white background with black lettering for reading, and a dark surface with white or yellow lines for outdoor games. High contrast tends to be much more useful for many children with low vision than materials presented with little or no contrast. For example, the picture shows an example of poor contrast on the left: a white cereal bowl with light-colored hot cereal inside. On the right is an example of good contrast: a dark-colored bowl with light-colored cold cereal inside.

In the following case study, Brittanie has difficulty with light-colored items on light-colored backgrounds.

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