There is a wide range of types and degree of visual impairment from short-sightedness, correctable with glasses to people who have virtually no useful sight – those registered blind. There is also the problem of colour blindness which can occur in up to 10% of boys.
Sometimes it is not the eye itself which causes the problem, but it is the pathway from the eye to the brain which is damaged. i.e. what the eye perceives has to be translated and made sense of by the brain.
Most people who are considered ‘blind’ have some sight. The degree to which each person is affected varies greatly. Some people can see to read but have difficulties getting around (tunnel vision); others vice versa.
Abstract concepts are difficult for those who cannot see as they have limited exploration to develop relationships. There can also be problems with movement, behaviour and responses as they do not pick up incidental information as easily as fully-sighted people.
What to look for: For children who have not been identified their eyes may turn or squint; they may screw up their eyes to look. They may be rather clumsy when moving around; they may have difficulty copying from the board; their handwriting may be large and spidery. They may tire quickly and may rub their eyes a lot. The child may be seen to have unusual habits, eg. rocking or rubbing fingers etc. This may indicate that they don’t know what is happening around them.
Wraparound is an all-inclusive scheme supporting children with visual and other disabilities in the Southern Health & Social Services area of N.Ireland. It offers help to parents, training for professionals, information and advice and play facilities for young children. Contact Catherine Murnin on 02890329373 or Catherine.Murnin@rnib.org.uk