Vision loss, low vision, and visual impairment are terms that are used to describe a wide range of vision problems. Sometimes there is a loss of vision because of problems with the eye, and sometimes vision loss is caused by problems in the brain. Sight and visual clues are important to a developing baby and how she processes information from the world around her. Vision loss can affect how a child understands and functions in that world by limiting the information and range of experiences to which a child is exposed. This can affect a child’s development in terms of cognitive (thinking), emotional, and physical ability.
Vision loss is more common in children with other developmental disabilities, as nearly two-thirds of children with vision impairment may also have mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, or epilepsy. About one-third of these children were low birth weight babies, weighing under 5 ½ pounds. Children with more severe vision impairment are more likely to have additional disabilities than are children with milder vision impairment.
Some of the terms used to describe vision loss can be confusing. Vision loss, low vision, and visual impairment are used to describe many conditions that affect the ability to see. The term legally blind means the level of vision loss in both eyes is significant enough to qualify for benefits. In order to qualify, the vision loss must measure 20/200. A person with normal vision has vision that measures 20/20 – at 20 feet away they can see what they are supposed to see at 20 feet away. When a person that has 20/200 vision looks at something that is 20 feet away it appears the same way it would to a person with normal vision that was viewing it from 200 feet away. For vision loss to qualify as legally blind the vision level must remain at 20/200 even after it has been corrected through glasses, surgery, or other aids. A child may also be qualified as legally blind if the peripheral vision is reduced so that his or her field of vision is 20 degrees or less in each eye. Most children who are determined to be legally blind still have some usable vision, though making out letters may be difficult. Blind or total blindness refers to when there is no vision at all.
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American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
FamilyConnect (For Parents of Children with Visual Impairments)
Prevent Blindness America
The Association for Retinopathy of Prematurity and Related Diseases