Our Visual Skills
Vision is a critical sense that allows us to navigate our environment, interact with others, and perform daily activities. Problems with the visual system can occur at various levels including the anatomy of the eyes, the eyes’ ability to move in various directions and coordinate movements, the ability to process visual information, and at the level of functional activities.
You might be wondering, “How do I know if my child’s visual system is functioning effectively?” Some signs that may indicate visual challenges include tilting their head to look at objects, rubbing their eyes, holding objects too close to their face, squinting, complaining of head or eye pain, difficulty with reading, and difficulty with copying information from the board in school. If you observe any of these signs, it might be a good idea to address them with your child’s occupational therapist.
While a referral to a vision specialist (optometrist or vision therapist) is recommended when there are visual deficits, your child’s OT can also be a great resource for identifying and incorporating strategies and modifications to support their visual challenges within functional activities. Your child’s OT might include a range of strategies that are tailored to your child’s specific needs. These may include:
- Strengthening Visual Skills: Your child’s OT may incorporate exercises to improve visual skills, such as controlling eye movements, visual scanning, and visual memory. They may also provide education on exercises that you can incorporate at home to strengthen visual skills. These skills are important for everyday activities such as reading and navigating safely through their environment.
- Modifying the Environment: Your child’s OT can evaluate your child’s natural environments (ex: home, school, or community environments) and make recommendations regarding modifications to improve safety and accessibility. These recommendations may include adding additional lighting, utilizing contrasting colors to differentiate objects, and rearranging furniture or the tabletop to reduce visual clutter.
- Assistive technology: Your child’s OT may explore forms of assistive technology to help your child to complete tasks that would otherwise be difficult due to their vision impairment. Assistive technology devices might include magnifiers, screen readers, or voice to text apps.
- Adaptive strategies: Your child’s OT may help to develop adaptive strategies for completing tasks that are impacted by their visual impairment. This may include teaching your child to use tactile cues or auditory feedback to navigate their environment.
In conclusion, occupational therapy can be a valuable resource for children with visual deficits or impairments. By addressing the specific needs of your child, OTs can help to maximize their functional abilities and bolster their independence across home, school, and community settings.