Tips for Parents of Visually Impaired Children
Diagnosing Vision Problems in Children
Everyone needs regular eye exams. This is particularly important if your child has risk factors or a family history of eye problems. Children need their vision checked at infancy, 6 months, between 3 and 3 1/2 years, and upon entering school, around the age of 5.
You should see your primary health care provider for any of these symptoms of vision problems. He or she can refer you to an eye doctor if needed:
- Redness or swelling in the eye.
- Lots of tearing or blinking.
- Poor eye alignment.
- Frequent rubbing of one or both eyes.
- Frequent closing or covering of one eye.
- Extreme sensitivity to light.
- Trouble tracking an object in range of vision.
These are other possible symptoms of vision problems you may notice in an older child:
- Trouble seeing the blackboard at school (check with your child or child's teacher).
- Sitting very close to the television.
- Leaning close to books while reading or doing homework.
- Headaches or nausea.
Education for Visually Impaired Children
Visually impaired children can have learning problems that range from mild to severe. Their educational needs and options will depend on the nature of their disability.
Under the American Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), visually impaired children are entitled to a "free and appropriate public education." But this doesn't mean that you should simply send visually impaired children off to school and hope for the best. You will need to ensure that your child gets the support she needs to learn and flourish. Here are some suggestions:
- Talk to teachers and administrators at your child's school. Make sure that they understand your child's special issues.
- Get a second opinion from a learning specialist, if you aren't comfortable with your child's learning environment.
- Check in with your child often to make sure that he or she is thriving at school.
If your child's visual impairment is severe, he or she may need help from other specialists to develop life skills. Specialists in low-vision rehabilitation and mobility are trained to help visually impaired children adapt to their environment and develop independence.
Today, there are also many low-vision devices and adaptive technologies that will help your child communicate, learn, and lead an independent life. Rehabilitation specialists can help find the resources that will be most helpful, given your child's condition.
Support for Parents of Visually Impaired Children
If your child's visual impairment is severe, you'll need extra support. In your effort to get help for your child, though, don't forget yourself. Take steps to reach out and find the support you need, so you'll have the resources to help your child:
- Educate yourself. Learn all you can about your child's disability and the options for treatment and education. Look at other articles on this web site, and seek out relevant information from government and nonprofit organizations that offer resources for families of visually impaired children.
- Build a support system. Seek out other parents of visually impaired children. They will be a wonderful source of information and support. Ask your doctor or learning specialist for referrals to parents' support groups in your area.
- Take care of yourself. To avoid stress and burnout, be sure to make time for yourself, and for the friendships and activities you enjoy.
- Take care of your relationships. Having a child with a disability can put pressure on your marriage and your entire family. Nurture your relationship by having frequent dates and private time together. Don't forget your other children, too. Schedule regular one-on-one time, and keep up with their interests and activities.