David I Silbert MD, FAAP is a pediatric ophthalmologist who has been serving the children of Central PA for more than 20 years. His office specializes in evaluating and treating children with Low Vision. Our office is happy to talk to you about a student who is not our patient or to answer any general questions you may have.
Low vision is a term used to refer to a visually impaired person. This visual impairment cannot be corrected through surgery, medication, glasses, or contact lenses. This can cause poor vision or a significant loss of peripheral vision.
Low vision can cause a student to have difficulty when reading from a projector across the room, copying from a white board, reading standard textbook size print, and participating in sports.
Here are some suggestions on how to best accommodate students with low vision.
- Ask the student to explain their vision to you – this can be surprisingly insightful!
- Find out from their ophthalmologist what their vision is at distance and near and what suggestions they have for the classroom. A parent can request this be sent directly to a teacher and can give the doctor’s office permission to speak with the teacher over the phone.
- Ask the student and parents what works best for them. Often this can be embarrassing to talk about in front of classmates. Sometimes children need to sit in the front of the classroom, may need to sit in a well-lit area, may need to wear sunglasses in the classroom or may need special material for taking notes (such as an iPad or white paper with a black sharpie).
- Do not discourage the student from holding material very close to their eyes to read, this will not strain the eyes and may help them function better.
- Allow child to use their finger with print if this helps them.
- Try to reduce glare on the white board and consider seating the student with his/her back to the window.
- Try to provide handouts with good contrast (such as black print on a white page). Reduced contrast (such as orange font on a yellow page) will make it more difficult for a student with low vision to read.
- Low vision students are often slow readers and may need extra time to complete assignments and tests. This is especially true with standardized tests.
- Using large print textbooks and materials may be necessary.
- Always use the student’s name when addressing them, as they may not be able to tell you are looking at them.
- Students with low vision do not always pick up on non-verbal cues. This can make it difficult for the teacher to communicate with the student at times, but can be especially frustrating when the student communicates with his/her classmates.
- According to the PA Department of Education: for students with visual impairments, assessment should include, at a minimum: a functional vision assessment, a learning media assessment, and assessment in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) for students with visual impairments. These assessments need to be completed when a student is first referred for services and should continue to be updated at least yearly.