Low Vision Learners: Tips, Strategies, and Dispelling Myths

Children with low vision and/or blindness can learn and advance alongside their peers when correct modifications are put in place.  This blog will look at suggestions for help with reading print and e-text, ideas to put in place with your child’s teachers, and will review some of the common vision myths and facts that have been passed down for generations. Information used in this blog came from Instructional Strategies for Students with Low Vision, Visual Impairments, and Vision Facts and Myths.

Strategies for Print and E-Text

There are a variety of ways in which students with low vision can access print, and many students will use different strategies in different situations.  For example, out in the community, they may prefer to use spot magnification to check menus or prices, but in school they may prefer to use textbooks in large print.  A CCTV (Close-Circuit Television) or other form of video magnification may be the preferred way to view graphics or a text in school that is not available in large print.  It is often necessary for the student to try different tools in various circumstances to be part of the decision-making process about what works best.

Instructional strategies for paper materials include:

1. Provide regular print

2. Use hand-held magnification with regular text

3. Enlarge Small Amounts of Text, Pictures, Diagrams, Charts on Photocopier

4. Provide Large Print Version of the Text

5. Use Stand-alone Video Magnification

6. Use Video Magnification with Computer Integration

Additional strategies for e-text, include:

1. Change Appearance of Text and/or Background

2. Magnify Text and/or Computer Screen

3. Provide E-text with Tracking Support or Highlighting

4. Provide E-text with Auditory Support

Ideas to Incorporate with Your Child’s Teacher

The information in this section came from an article meant for educators but the advice is sound and will product the most bang for the buck if they are incorporated both at home and at school. Obviously, some things will need to be slightly modified at home unless the child has a one-on-one working with them at home as well.

  1. Speak to the class (or persons in your home) upon entering and leaving the room or site.
  2. Call the student with a visual impairment by name if you want his/her attention.
  3. Work with a student’s intervention specialist for specific educational needs such as change in lighting, classroom seating, and print medium (also known as a teacher of students with visual impairments).
  4. Use descriptive words such as straight, forward, left, etc. in relation to the student’s body orientation. Be specific in directions and avoid the use of vague terms with unusable information, such as “over there”, “here”, “this”, etc.
  5. Describe, in detail, pertinent visual occurrences of the learning activities.
  6. Describe and tactually familiarize the student to the classroom, laboratory, equipment, supplies, materials, field sites, etc.
  7. Give verbal notice of room changes, special meetings, or assignments.
  8. Offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment, when appropriate.
  9. Order the appropriate textbooks for the students in their preferred medium. Be sure to use the state NIMAS center for help in ordering textbooks. (Or appropriate books to read at home)
  10. Identify yourself by name, don’t assume that the student who is visually impaired will recognize you by your voice even though you have met before. Be sure to identify others in the room as well. (For use at the home this would include other family members, friends, and/or guests either that drop by in person or via phone)
  11. If you are asked to guide a student with a visual impairment, identify yourself, offer your services and, if accepted, offer your arm to the student’s hand. Tell them if they have to step up or step down, let them know if the door is to their left or right, and warn them of possible hazards.
  12. Orally, let the student know if you need to move or leave or need to end a conversation.
  13. If a student with a visual impairment is in class, routinely check the instructional environment to be sure it is adequate and ready for use.
  14. Do not pet or touch a guide dog. Guide dogs are working animals. It can be hazardous for the visually impaired person if the dog is distracted.
  15. Use an auditory or tactile signal where a visual signal is normally used.
  16. It is not necessary to speak loudly to people with visual impairments.

Vision Myths and Facts

This section will review old wives’ tales abound about the eyes. From watching TV to eating carrots, here’s the lowdown on some vision facts and fiction.

Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for the eyes.

Fact: Although parents have been saying this ever since TVs first found their way into our homes, there’s no evidence that plunking down right in front of the TV set damages someone’s eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says that kids can actually focus up close without eyestrain better than adults, so they often develop the habit of sitting right in front of the television or holding reading material close to their eyes. However, sitting close to a TV may be a sign of nearsightedness.

Myth: If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.

Fact: Contrary to the old saying, eyes will not stay that way if you cross them. If your child is crossing one eye constantly, schedule an evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

Myth: If parents have poor eyesight, their kids will inherit that trait.

Fact: Unfortunately, this one is sometimes true. If you need glasses for good vision or have developed an eye condition (such as cataracts), your kids might inherit that same trait. Discuss your family’s visual history with your doctor.

Myth: Eating carrots can improve vision.

Fact: Although it’s true that carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for sight, so are many other foods (asparagus, apricots, nectarines, and milk, for example). A well-balanced diet can provide the vitamin A needed for good vision, says the AAO.

Myth: Computer use can damage the eyes.

Fact: According to the AAO, computer use won’t harm the eyes. However, when using a computer for long periods of time, the eyes blink less than normal (like they do when reading or performing other close work). This makes the eyes dry, which may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. So encourage your kids to take frequent breaks from Internet surfing or video games.

Myth: Only boys can be color-blind.

Fact: It’s estimated that up to 8% of boys have some degree of color blindness, whereas less than 1% of girls do.

Myth: The eye is full size at birth.

Fact: The eye is NOT full size at birth but continues to grow with your child. This growth partially accounts for refractive (glasses) changes that occur during childhood.

Myth: Wearing glasses too much will make the eyes “dependent” on them.

Fact: Refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism) change as kids get older. Many variables come into play, but most of this change is likely due to genetics and continues despite wearing glasses earlier or later or more or less. Wearing glasses does not make the eyes get worse.

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