Duke Medicine: A classroom with a view
School presents unique challenges for kids with impaired vision. Duke's Pediatric Low Vision Program helps schools and families overcome these challenges.Posted — Updated
School presents unique challenges for kids with impaired vision. Duke’s Pediatric Low Vision Program helps schools and families overcome these challenges.
The last thing most children want is to stand out as “different” from their peers. So when a child faces low vision challenges, the task to eye care professionals and educators is to find the most effective ways to overcome the child’s visual impairment, allowing full participation in the classroom while minimizing the “I’m different” factor.
The primary objective of pediatric low vision programs is to help children function maximally in their educational environment, explains Duke pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Sharon Freedman, who has taken the lead in establishing the Duke Pediatric Low Vision Program.
Helping children is quite different from adult vision rehabilitation where much of the emphasis is on helping adults do the tasks and hobbies they used to be able to do.
“There are a fair number of children with eye conditions or diseases that leave them with less-than-optimal vision,” Freedman says. “Beyond the care they receive from their pediatric ophthalmologist, they also need guidance to meet their needs in school. There are very few programs that specialize in providing pediatric low vision services, and there is a strong need, which is why we decided to establish a formal program at Duke.”
Low vision can be the result of a range of childhood conditions -- including albinism, pediatric cataracts or glaucoma, various retinal and optical abnormalities, and nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movement. Fortunately, most of these conditions are very rare, but that also means a child may be one of the only children in the school -- or even in a whole school system -- with that issue.
As one of the nation’s top specialty pediatric ophthalmology programs, Duke sees patients with uncommon conditions from all over the world. Through this new service, the Eye Center can more effectively share its expertise and experience to help school systems and families meet the needs of these children.