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Rehabilitation is Key for Children with Low Vision
By Erica A. Hacker, O.D.

Low vision is any vision loss that cannot be returned to normal with glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or medication. Since there is no cure, managing such vision loss is all about rehabilitation, or finding new ways to move through life. For a child, rehabilitation focuses on helping them at both school and at play.

If you've wondered whether your child has low vision, look for these signs: she has difficulty recognizing a familiar face, difficulty reading, and/or difficulty seeing steps or curbs, which could be hazardous to someone with low vision. Your next step: contact a qualified eye care provider who can thoroughly assess your child's visual functioning during a low vision exam.

Your doctor may recommend glasses or contact lenses. Other optical devices—such as special telescopic glasses for seeing in the classroom or playing video games and powerful magnifiers—could be helpful for your child. Closed-circuit televisions and other adaptive technology also are available.

While facing such a challenge for your child can be overwhelming, there is help. Children in Pennsylvania benefit from a state supported collaboration among parents, service practitioners and others who work with young children needing special services. The Pennsylvania Early Intervention program provides support and services to families with children, from birth to age 5. Once your child starts school, she will be assigned a vision teacher.

At local nonprofit Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, a room equipped for pediatric low vision evaluations has been created so that children feel comfortable in a welcoming and playful environment. The agency also has on staff an occupational therapist who can teach young patients how to use optical devices or other vision aids. Vision teachers are encouraged to accompany children to appointments.

Erica A. Hacker, O.D., is an optometrist in the Low Vision Department at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. For more information, call (412) 368-4400 or visit www.bvrspittsburgh.org.

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