Practical support for identifying and meeting need

What is vision impairment?

Vision impairment is a diagnosed visual condition which cannot be fully corrected with glasses or other medical intervention. Vision impairment can occur when part of the visual system does not develop properly, becomes damaged or does not work effectively.

What is the impact of a vision impairment?

A loss of vision can impact on a wide range of areas including:

  • education
  • inclusion in everyday life
  • independence
  • orientation and mobility
  • social and emotional development
  • communication
  • language
  • access to learning

How to spot children and young people with visual needs in the classroom

Signs of a possible vision problem in a student who hasn’t been diagnosed with a visual impairment may include:

  • constant eye rubbing or chronic eye redness
  • extreme light sensitivity
  • squinting, closing one eye, or misaligned eyes
  • poor focusing or trouble following objects
  • inability to see objects at a distance
  • inability to read a whiteboard or blackboard, etc., or difficulty reading
  • tripping or falling frequently/bumping into things
  • missing social cues
  • not spotting their friends/familiar people from a distance

Common problems with sight

It is really important for children to have any visual needs treated. Some common problems are:

These can usually be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. If left untreated pupils will hold objects either close to see (near sighted) or far away to see (far sighted).

A wobble of the eye involving fast to and fro movements. This makes vision blurry and can make it difficult for students to see things clearly. This can’t be corrected with glasses.

Images can appear blurred and it can’t be corrected with glasses.

Images appear blurred and it can’t be corrected with glasses – but can be treated in young children.

The eye can see clearly but the brain has difficulty interpreting the image and therefore looking at an object appears to take a long time before it is recognised. This can’t be corrected with glasses.

Part of the field of vision is “missing”. This can impact on an individual’s ability to travel independently, spot things at certain angles, pupils may misjudge steps or stairs, fall over and bump into things. This can’t be corrected with glasses.

Vision will be blurred and the pupil may appear to have a grey spot in the centre, sides or back of the lens. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. This can’t be corrected with glasses and requires surgery.

Top tips for supporting students with visual impairments

Here are some practical ideas on how to support children and young people with visual difficulties:

  • Different seating arrangements to help them see whiteboards, overhead displays, etc. Sitting at the front of the class usually works best.
  • Written/graphic materials with good contrast and clear bold outlines.
  • Bold lined or squared paper when writing/6B pencils or black pen.
  • Reminders to wear their glasses (if they have them) and use of magnifiers or extra lighting.
  • Large printed handout materials or audio books for reading.
  • Voice-over software, computers or other technology to help them with their work.
  • Someone to assist in taking notes.
  • Someone to read information to them.
  • Extra time to get to classes or complete work/assessments.
  • Cloakrooms etc. to be free of clutter and having a peg at the end of a row.
  • Sitting in the same place in the classroom and having a consistent classroom arrangement so they can easily find their seat and manoeuvre their way around a room.

Where to go for more help

A registration of sight impairment is not needed for the visual impairment service to be involved with a child or young person.

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