More than half our pupils have some level of visual impairment (from low vision to nearly complete blindness) with various etiologies (low vision, astigmatism, nystagmus, rare diagnoses). The most common diagnoses are loss of central vision and cortical visual impairment (CVI). As a result, they suffer from impairments in various areas of visual perception – sharpness, vision field defects, difficulties processing visual input, problems adapting to light and dark, spatial vision disorders, and more.
All cases involve a combination of visual impairment with other handicaps. The visual impairment may play a significant role, or it may be secondary to the child’s other diagnoses. A professional approach is always necessary, however, and the child’s needs must be taking into account during instruction. We develop the child’s remaining vision (reeducation) while teaching it to get around and explore the world using other senses (hearing, touch, smell). It is also important to train spatial orientation and self-care. Our primary goal is the child’s greatest possible independence and pleasant experiences.
During instruction, we work on the basis of the child’s professional examination by an eye doctor and vision therapist who perform an examination of the child’s functional vision and establish the specific conditions for his or her visual education (the ideal size of visual stimuli/pictures, distance to the object, background, field of vision, circumstances of visual perception, etc.). The examination by a visual therapist takes place at the Center for Visual Impairments at Motol Hospital (V Úvalu 84, Prague 5); appointments can be made at 224 432 772.
Visual education takes place throughout the day in situations that are natural for the child: while eating or singing, during activities and instruction, while getting dressed, etc. An important factor is the approach and attention of the teacher and the entire team.
Besides regular activities, we also focus on the targeted exercise of vision and visual perception in a specially adapted dark environment using special aids: UV light, illuminated objects, colored light, balls, glowing animals, sight-development aids, and an illuminated LiteScout panel with adjustable features. Most of our aids are homemade to suit each child’s individual needs – pictures with distinct outlines, audio items, contrast-rich patterns, and objects for promoting visual attention. The snoezelen room also helps to stimulate visual perception and helps the teacher and pupil work together to find further options for the pupil’s development.
During visual education, the teacher must take a highly individual approach to the pupil, and must be knowledgeable in the development of visual perception while also working creatively, for the various aspects of our pupils’ vision tend to be unevenly developed. For instance, a child may see better while lying than sitting, or it can better perceive an object by moving it or when talking about it. In other cases, however, sound may disturb the child. The teacher’s basic tools include subtle observational skills and the ability to experiment.
The child first learns to focus its gaze on a face or one distinctive object, then it shifts its focus from object to object, and later it can learn to perceive things along a horizontal and vertical line or within a range of view, to understand the meaning of what it sees, to place things and situations into context, to distinguish details from the whole, and so on. Visual education thus becomes an adventurous journey of discovery.
Nielsenová, L.: Učení zrakově postižených dětí v raném věku, ISV Praha, 1998, ISBN 80-85866-26-9
Vítková a kol. Možnosti reedukace zraku při kombinovaném postižení, Paido, Brno 1999, ISBN 80-85931-75-3
Moravcová, D.: Zraková terapie slabozrakých a pacientů s nízkým vizem, Triton, Praha 2004, ISBN- 80-7254-476-4