Tips for parents of visually impaired children
There are many types of visual problems that can affect a child's eyesight. These may get picked up during routine screening tests, or sometimes if a child is having problems at school.
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 find relevant information from government and charity organisations 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 for recommendations for parents' support groups in your area.
- Take care of yourself. To avoid stress and burn out, 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 private time together. Don't forget your other children, too. Plan time together just with them, and keep up with their interests and activities.
Vision problems in children
Vision problems in children include:
- Short-sightedness ( myopia) is a problem with focusing that makes distant objects appear blurry. Glasses or contacts can usually improve it.
- Long or far sightedness ( hyperopia) is a problem with focusing that makes close objects appear blurry. Glasses or contacts can usually improve it.
- Astigmatismoccurs when there is a flaw in the curvature of the eye's cornea, causing problems with focusing. Glasses can usually improve it.
- Squint ( strabismus) occurs when the eyes are out of alignment. If detected early, temporarily patching the normal eye may resolve the problem. Surgery is sometimes needed.
- Lazy eye ( amblyopia) occurs when vision in one eye is reduced. This happens because the brain and eye are not working together. Patching or special eye drops may help treat it.
- Droopy eyelid (ptosis) usually requires surgery if it affects vision or in adulthood for cosmetic reasons.
Damage to the eye or a problem with the eye's shape or structure can cause other types of visual impairment. Some have nothing to do with the eye itself, but are the result of a problem in the way the brain processes information. Conditions that lead to vision problems in children include:
- Cortical visual impairment (CVI). This is a result of a problem in the area of the brain that controls vision. Not enough oxygen to the brain, brain injury, or infections such as encephalitis and meningitis can cause CVI. It can lead to temporary or permanent vision impairment and blindness.
- Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This occurs most often in premature and low-birthweight babies. It is the result of abnormal blood vessels or scarring in the eye's retina. The problem often resolves by itself. If more severe, ROP can result in permanent vision impairment or blindness.
- Albinism. This genetic condition affects the pigment of the skin, and often causes eye problems.
- Genetically transmitted visual impairments. Congenital or infantile cataracts (a cloudy lens) and congenital glaucoma (a disorder that damages the optic nerve) often run in families. They can cause vision impairment.