Vision is one of the primary senses that helps us to navigate around our environment. It helps us to perceive shape, size and form. Our visual sense also helps us to perceive depth, to predict danger, identify objects and it helps us to coordinate movement of our hands and arms. A child`s eye sight is only one component of the visual sense. Visual perception enables us to interpret what we see and use this information to interact with the environment around us.
Vision is also an important component in sensory integration. Infants develop their visual sense through watching a moving object or person with their head and eyes. This involves movement of the muscles around the eyes and neck in conjunction with gravity and movement sensations. If a child is experiencing difficulty with visual processing it may affect the development of other sensory systems. For example if a child has decreased visual perception or sight they may be fearful of movement and as a result may not want to run and play. This can have adverse affects on their development of their body awareness or proprioceptive sense.
Why is it important to have your child`s vision assessed?
It is important to remember that a child may not realise that this is anything wrong with their visual sense. Decreased eye sight can have an effect on a child`s social and educational development. Decreased visual perception can mean that a child has difficulty with perceiving shape and form of objects. Having a difficulty in this area will mean everyday activities like handwriting or pooring a glass of milk will be difficult for the child.
Some signs to look out for:
- Handwriting difficulties i.e. handwriting speed, difficulty spacing letters or difficulty sizing letters
- Squinting at objects
- Pushing fingers into eyes
- Reduced body awareness
- Finger flicking
- Misjudgement of placing objects on table or pouring liquids
- Reduced efficiency of movement for example when catching a ball
- Tiring easily especially during Reading and writing tasks
- Tripping or crashing into objects when running or walking
- Dislike or fear of balance games or heights
- Sensitive to bright lights
- Child may touch or lick object to get a sense of its shape, size and form to help them understand what that object may be.
- Sometimes a child`s behaviour may be an indicator that they are having difficulty with visual processing. Some children are sensitive to light and prefer low light, some behaviours may be an effort to decrease or block out the stimuli in their environment (at home, school or in the play ground).
- Consider the environment and how you can adapt this to help meet the needs of your child. For example a child with perceptual difficulties will have difficulty picking out objects in a cluttered environment. Adapt the environment to help the child achieve independence and feel successful.
- Â Consider visual distractions in the environment. Remove visually distracting material from the environment.
- In school if a child has difficulty with taking material down from the board, trial a smaller board on their desk and consider the position of the child in the class room. Also consider the visual presentation of school work, a maths copy with small boxes maybe too visually confusing for child to differenciate between boxes.
- A child with impaired vision has to work incredible hard to concentrate and to keep up with school work and with play with his / her peers. This can be very tiring. Allowing more time to complete lessons will help decrease anxiety and dislike of the subject. Provide child with movement breaks to help re-energise and use reward charts for their efforts.
- Provide child with a lot of reassurance. Not being able to keep up with school work can lead child to feeling disheartened and upset about school work.
- Help improve visual perception through play. Play games that involve finding animals / words / shapes in puzzles. Play matching games with different sized and shaped blocks.
- There is a wide range of new and innovative equipment available to help improve independence (please see websites below for information on magnifiers, computer technology and mobile phone technology).
- Remember that every child is very different and each will have very specific needs. What helps one child may not necessary help another.
If you are concerned about your child`s vision
If you are concerned about your child`s eye sight an optician will be able to advise and assess your child as required. An Occupational Therapist will be able to assess your child`s visual processing and how this is impacting upon their ability to complete everyday activities for themselves.
If you have any questions about any of the above, please donâ€™t hesitate to contact us.