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Visual Impairments

Dear Debi,
My daughter is 10 months old. My family has a history of vision problems. What should I do to make sure that she doesn’t have this problem as well?
Ciani Bell
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Visual Impairments:
  • Early intervention is important
  • Young children should have a thorough eye examination
Warning Signs:
  • Difficulty following you with her eyes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Eyes that appear crossed or turned
Expert Advice
Diane Fazzi, Ph.D.
Diane Fazzi, Ph.D.
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Ciani should take her daughter to an eye doctor or eye care specialist. She could go to an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or even a general practitioner doctor. The American Optometric Association recommends that children receive complete eye examinations at the ages of six months, three years, then five.

Visual impairments refer to any condition that only allows a child to see with a restricted field of vision. There is a range of conditions and syndromes and the level to which children are affected depends on how severe the visual impairment is. Visual impairment may range from having limited vision to having some functional vision.

Early intervention is important because when you have a child with visual impairments some of the things you need to do with them is counterintuitive. There are signals that happen with a typical developing baby, for example, that happen differently in children with visual impairments. For example, most babies get very active and physically excited when they see and/ or hear their mothers. A baby with visual impairments would do the opposite: they would stop moving so much so that they could hear better. Some parents might interpret that stillness as disinterest on the baby’s part but it’s really the baby compensating for not being able to see that well.

Early intervention by a professional can also help a parent network and reinforce the fact that they’re not alone. That’s extremely important as well because it helps parents through a difficult time. Early intervention can improve the child and family’s quality of life by getting them the help they need from early on. Conditions, like lazy eye, require early intervention and treatment to avoid permanent loss of sight. Pupil color discoloration, like white in color could be the sign of congenital cataracts and in some cases tumorous growth and needs to be treated as early as possible to avoid further complications. Also, visual impairments restrict the development of mobility and the understanding of many concepts, so it can have profound implications.

Warning signs of visual impairments may include:
  • Redness in the eyes, babies that have extra-large eyes, eyes that are starting to cross, but many times, the eyes look normal
  • How much attention that baby is paying to visual details: a baby should be looking at people’s faces, beginning eye-hand coordination, following a bottle, when a child listens to what happens more than looking for what is happening, that’s a sign
  • Frequent rubbing of eyes, blinking or headaches, could be the signs of eyestrain and are common in children who have difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty following objects or people with her eyes
  • Eye alignment-when your child makes eye contact with you are her eyes straight or is there a slight eye turn?
  • Amblyopia: winking, does your child close one eye when watching TV or reading? Could be a sign of double vision
  • Unusual behavior-sometimes kids with vision problems are slow learners, unmotivated, and get frustrated easily, because they can’t see clearly
  • Difficulty learning shapes colors and letters
If it is identified that a child has a visual impairment, parents can go through their school districts and they will direct them to the appropriate resources. Regional centers are available from ages 0-3 if the child has visual impairments and other developmental disabilities. First try and contact your child’s pediatrician who can refer you to agencies that help screen or evaluate children for vision problems. Children with identified disabilities are eligible for free services and can receive Supplemental Security Income if they qualify. Your local social security office can tell you more about it.
Child Care provider Comments
Lauren O'Neil
Lauren O'Neil
Daughter has visual impairment
My daughter, Eleanor, has high myopia, which means that she is near-sighted and can only see a few inches without her glasses. She wears corrective lenses that help her see more of what we all see.

Eleanor is really beginning to make accomplishments. She’s growing, and she’s still delayed, but she is accomplishing skills that we thought may not have been possible for her. She wasn’t even sitting up when we first started with therapists, and she is now sitting up and working on walking and crawling. She’s eating table food, which is a big step for her. We were on baby food for a really long time. She’s making a lot more sounds. She’s just an overall more interested child, more interested in the environment and people.
Miriam Hermosillo
Miriam Hermosillo
Cares for her neice
I first noticed that something was wrong with my niece when she was 8 months old. She wasn’t responding to sound or visual stimulation. We requested special tests from the pediatrician. We found that her eyes weren’t tracking properly. Then we met with a specialist and they suggested an operation, treatment, and other therapies for visual stimulation after the operation.

We did a lot of research and talked to her pediatrician, specialists and surgeon who performed the surgery. Just knowing what programs were available to children who have special needs was a big help to us. The specialist also connected them to The Junior Blind of America and The Braille Institute. Andrea also has special therapies at home and at the centers.

Helping Children with Visual Impairments Featured Activity:
Helping Children with Visual Impairments
Visual Impairments Featured Video:
Visual Impairments
Topic: Special Needs
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