10 Oct Gradually Losing Vision
I have had many doctors tell the parents their child was not going to lose any more vision, and they did. I have had children with a diagnosis that stated they were not going to lose any more vision and they did…or the diagnosis changed to something else because the doctor figured out they did have a degenerative eye condition.
It does not matter what case scenario, I always teach, or try to always teach, what the child will need at the middle and end, not just the beginning. What are the child's dreams and yes the parents, but many times, I hear from the parents, "I just want my child to be happy." They adjusted their dream when they found out about the child's sight loss and now they are not sure WHAT to dream.
If a child has some vision, I utilize that vision for visual tasks, such as looking at maps and graphs, pictures, learning print, etc., as part of the academic skills. But any major reading or writing goes to braille and technology. What I do know is if this child has a normal IQ then I need to give them tools to do the work as fast as anyone else with that IQ.
If you can get the child early enough…really before 1st grade, 3 years old is great and at birth is even better, but if you can get them early enough, begin them on braille, technology and other blind skills. Even in kindergarten when all print is already large for everyone, the low vision child joins in with writing his or her letters and printing out work, just like everyone. During reading time, the child switches to braille, so he is getting a mixture of the print world and the blind world. He is utilizing all aspects, because if the child can learn all aspects of print, they will understand the world in general better. If someone says, "I need to take a U turn" "Can you grab the C clamp" and so on, the child can create an image in their head.
As the sight decreases, the child moves more to braille and uses large print less and less. It becomes a very easy transition, if they learn both from the start. I have had kids hate to read braille at school because they do not want to be different. However, they go home and read all their work in Braille. I have had students slide more over to braille without even a twitch because they are so tired of trying to see the print…or tired of the headaches. But an easy transition because they had the choice of what they wanted to use. No one complains about the technology though and they all output on a computer, so that is always fast from the start.
The students who have come to me from elsewhere who are low vision and are using magnifiers and equipment to enlarge work, are not able to keep up with their peers: If they are older than 3rd grade, they have already gained a great dislike for reading. This is a tougher sell to convince them to use braille, even at 3rd grade, but it can happen. The transition to the computer is very easy. I hook a braille display to the computer and slowly but surely those fingers of the student move to the display to see the output that they have typed. I have started older students right out on a braille note and between the braille display, voice and input of braille, the students learn braille incredibly fast: Instruction is so much different from decades ago of just using a brailler.
The key is to teach students every tool then no matter what happens, they can use what they know. There is also less of a chance of the child going through a terribly depressed time when their remaining sight goes or they figure out the sight they have is not enough to do the job. When they figure this out and they have not learned braille or technology, they have to stop their life to learn it. Even if a low vision child does not lose more vision and are between that 20/100 and 20/200 visual acuity, when they go onto college or try to get a job, they realize they cannot keep up with their colleagues using enlarged print techniques.
Thinking years ahead for all opportunities tells you what they need now.
Lessons that will help