3 Ways TVI Telepractitioners Can Help Visually Impaired Children at Home

June 23, 2021By: Kelli Bustillos, Teacher of the Visually Impaired

There are many students with visual impairments in the United States who need support from a TVI. The availability of telepractice for visually impaired children opens up opportunities for both the TVI as well as the children who need help. In this blog post, learn more about the causes of visual impairments and how teachers of the visually impaired can support their students at home when receiving telepractice services

Visually Impaired Children

There are many different kinds of visual impairments in children of all ages.  The AFB reports that “According to the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS), there were approximately 547,083 children with vision difficulty and/or visually impaired children in the U.S. According to the 2019 ACS, there were 276,322 males and 270,761 females with vision difficulty under the age of 18 in the U.S.” These vision conditions range anywhere from stable to progressive.  The students all have different types of vision conditions to only light perception to conditions with minimal impact.  Some children with a visual impairment need a lot of support and interventions, while others need minimal accommodations.  The students that TVI telepractitioners see have vision conditions that cannot be corrected or cured.  They appear at different ages.  Some have their visual impairment at birth while others may not be diagnosed or present problems with their vision until later on in elementary school or sometimes even high school. 

Causes of Visual Impairments in Children

The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired states that there are 5 leading causes of visual impairments in children. These leading causes are:

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

“CVI is a neurological disorder, which results in unique visual responses to people, educational materials, and to the environment. When students with these visual/behavioral characteristics are shown to have loss of acuity or judged by their performance to be visually impaired, they are considered to have CVI.” 

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) 

“ROP is an eye disorder affecting premature infants. This disorder was called Retrolental Fibroplasia in the past. ROP affects immature blood vessels of the retina. It occurs weeks after birth. Once development of blood vessels is complete, a child is no longer a candidate for this disorder.” 

Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH)

“ONH refers to the underdevelopment of the optic nerve during pregnancy. The dying back of optic nerve fibers as the child develops in utero is a natural process, and ONH may be an exaggeration of that process. ONH may occur infrequently in one eye (unilateral) but more commonly in both eyes (bilateral). ONH is not progressive, is not inherited, and cannot be cured. ONH is one of the three most common causes of visual impairment in children.” 

Albinism

“Albinism refers to a group of inherited conditions. People with albinism have absent or reduced pigment in their eyes, skin or hair. They have inherited genes that do not make the usual amounts of a pigment called melanin which is essential for the full development of the retina. Lack of melanin in development of the retina is the primary cause of visual impairment in albinism. In the USA it is estimated that one person in 17,000 has some type of albinism.” 

Optic Nerve Atrophy (ONA)

“Optic Nerve Atrophy (ONA) is a permanent visual impairment caused by damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve functions like a cable carrying information from the eye to be processed by the brain. The optic nerve is comprised of over a million small nerve fibers (axons). When some of these nerve fibers are damaged through disease, the brain doesn’t receive complete vision information and sight becomes blurred.” 

Teaching visually impaired children via telepractice

There are many benefits of telepractice services for visually impaired children. It fulfills a need where there is a shortage of teachers of the visually impaired.  It gives the children services they need from someone who is licensed, trained and experienced.  The types of services may include using a para or adult such as a teacher or parent to assist on the other end, small group instruction with someone on site to assist or individual lessons if the student is independent enough.  Services could range anywhere from consults to more direct daily instruction for braille or technology skills.  Currently there is no research that discusses telepractice for visually impaired children. 

3 Ways TVI Telepractitioners Can Help Visually Impaired Children at Home

There are many tips that help facilitate telepractice for visually impaired children that help them to be successful at home.  Here are just a few of them:

Communication  

It is important to have good communication.  Communication will facilitate scheduling lessons via videoconferencing.  It will help to be clear about what days, times and where to show up for lessons.  Communication is also important during lessons.  A telepractioner will be explaining the facilitator on the other end how to do things they may have never done before, like loading braille paper into a brailler.  It may help the telepractitioner to have these items on their end of the videoconferencing so they can demonstrate through the video how to do it.  YouTube videos or cheat sheets are helpful tools when working with facilitators.  Get to know your students and people working with the students. Since you are not there in person you don’t naturally get to see their environment so talking to others who see the child daily routine is important. 

Engagement

It is important to keep lessons fun and engaging just like any teaching lessons.  A student may not be able to see the screen well and having fun lessons can help move a lesson along.  Using songs, having fun items on the student’s end, games, activities, stickers and many other things can help keep students entertained and focused on learning.

Organization

Since a telepractioner is not there in person, it is important for them to be organized in order to be successful.  Some of the things that are important to keep in mind when organizing your sessions are:

  • knowing what you will do in each lesson
  • having material ready for the person assisting on the other end, like playdoh or crayons
  • making sure supplies like braille paper are available 
  • knowing where and how to order materials
  • review and become familiar with all of the child’s IEP goals

Providing help for visually impaired children through telepractice

There are many opportunities for reaching children in need of services through telepractice and working as TVI in telepractice is certainly one of them. There are many students in the United States that have various types of visual impairments and need support. Providing help for visually impaired children through telepractice opens opportunities for both the TVI as well as the children in need of services. This is a rewarding career choice that opens a world of opportunities. To learn more about our telepractice TVI positions, check out our open telepractice TVI jobs by clicking the button below!

References:

Statistics About Children and Youth with Vision Loss. The American Foundation for the Blind. (2020, September). https://www.afb.org/research-and-initiatives/statistics/statistics-blind-children#:~:text=According%20to%20the%202019%20American,of%2018%20in%20the%20U.S.

Thomas, J. (2016, July 25). 5 Leading Causes of Visual Impairment in Children. Vermont Association for the Blind (VABVI). https://www.vabvi.org/21/5-leading-causes-of-visual-impairment-in-children.

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