Helping your child with vision difficulties
If your child has vision difficulties learning can sometimes be tiring & frustrating. What we may think is an easy task might actually be much harder work than we realise if it is harder to see and takes a long time to do. Sometimes children tell us about this outright if they realise it themselves & can express it. However, they may not know that it is their vision that is making it tricky if they do not know other people can see & process it easier than they can. They may show us they don’t like something or find it difficult by not trying or by being naughty.
When a child is in school they have lots of opportunities for less “intense” learning such as watching others, listening or working in groups as well as breaks and socialising. During Lockdown it is all different.
What you can to do to help
- Make sure that anything your child has to look at for lessons is fully accessible & they can see it well. Don’t ask them what they can see – ask them to describe it to you. So, use expressions like “tell me about what’s on this page, screen” & ask specific questions like “Oh what is that wee girl doing there?”.
- If you think it is tricky for your child to see their school work online you can adjust it. You can use tools for zooming in, make the font bigger, the pointer bigger & increase the spacing between lines. Changing the background colour so it is not bright white can often help too. You can also have the text read out to your child by using supports such as Texthelp.
- If you would like help and advice please contact the Vision Support Service and we will be happy to help. You can email VisionSupportService@aberdeencity.gov.uk. You can also visit our website @ https://accsensorysupport.org.uk. It is being updated & will be launched on 1st
- Make sure that your child has glasses on if they need them.
- There are a lot of places you can get digital books from if your child has print difficulties. This also includes visual stress, dyslexia and physical difficulties as well as visual impairment. Please see below for places to look or contact us for support.
- Recognise that children cannot keep going like adults can with sustained attention. When they are little (or not so little) think about matching the minutes to their age. So, if they are aged 6-8 they can only concentrate really hard for 5-10 minutes. If they are doing a general activity it should not be longer than 60 -90 minutes maximum. If your child has a visual impairment it might be a lot less.
- Frustration can become a real issue for all of us, especially in Lockdown. We all need a balance of easy and challenging things to do with the least amount of frustration possible. The important thing to remember when helping our children to learn is that sometimes a task may be a lot trickier if we are tired or fed up, or we cannot concentrate. We should remember that sometimes less is more for our children – we ought not to expect too much of them.
- Sometimes it is not just how small something is that causes problems. A lot of children have difficulties with visual processing & no-one even knows it. There is a lot of new research going on now about this that shows that some children, especially those born prematurely, with cerebral palsy or who had a difficult start at birth and very early in life might have a mild or moderate Cerebral Visual Impairment or CVI. This won’t be picked up in an eye test because it means the vision difficulties that they have are brain based & not always consistent so it is hard to spot. The advice we give for children with CVI is good for all children. One of the key ways you can help your child with their learning is by making the tasks they have to do as simple as possible. Here is some advice how to do it:
Challenges from Complexity for Children and Young People with Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI)
If a child with CVI is showing anxiety, having outbursts or seems withdrawn when they are trying to work it could be that it is all too much for them. This could be due to the complexity of their environment.
Consider the environment that your child is trying to work in.
- are there people moving around?
- are there visual distractions, things on the desk and/or on the surrounding walls?
- are there too many sounds/voices around?
Classrooms and homes can be very busy places. There can be a lot of distraction: noise, people, things to look at. You can really help your child by reducing the distractions
If there is less to see, it may be less distracting & tiring for them. Look at the examples below.
It’s a lot easier to concentrate on the sum, isn’t it?
You can see the difference it can make if you take away “visual clutter” from the background. You can do this by clearing things away or putting a cloth or a blanket over them.
Fidgeting, fixating on sounds that are not important or a reluctance to engage with a task may be signs that a task is too visually complex. If your child finds it hard to look at a book of sums or a page on a screen you can help by covering up the bits they don’t need just yet with a piece of card or paper. It can really help them concentrate and will help them to see better.
You can help your child to learn by reducing background noise. Turn off the TV, the radio, the phone.
Movement & people
Try to make learning time a quiet time without people or other children coming & going. A short but productive time is better than a longer busy and maybe frustrating one.
You can also help if you:
- plan time for breaks that have a low visual demand (listening to music, quiet time)
- slow the pace. Only do 7 questions instead of 10
- only present 1 item or question at a time
- if it is a digital copy of work, increase the font size, use double line spacing and increase spaces between words.
Many services are offering free access to books and materials while schools are closed.
Audible – offering free audio books to children to stream via desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.
Accessibyte – (free for next 45 days) makes fun, funky, fully accessible apps for users who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, dyslexic, or have other reading difficulties. We just want kids (and adults) to have fun options when it comes to assistive technology. https://www.accessibyte.com/stay-safe
ObjectiveEd – free distance learning for pupils with a visual impairment https://www.objectiveed.com/distance
Braille sheets: https://www.objectiveed.com/braille-sheets
Access ID: digitallearningAccess Passcode: research
RNIB Bookshare https://www.rnibbookshare.org The RNIB Library is a free database managed by RNIB and Dyslexia Action. It has a variety of formats including PDF, Word, DAISY, audio, BRF files. Most of the UK academic publishers are providing PDFs of their textbooks to Load2Learn.
The Seeing Ear is a charity with a free online library, mainly of novels and reading books in text and Word format.
For further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us: VisionSupportService@aberdeencity.gov.uk