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Vision impairment - children

blind; blindness; vision; impairment; ;

Vision impairment is a condition that prevents normal vision in one or both eyes. There are different degrees of vision impairment from mild loss to total blindness (no reaction to light).

A person's level of vision (or sight) may remain the same over time or it may change. Eye sight will get worse as part of some conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa and untreated cataracts.

The amount of vision loss will affect the type of support your child will need at home, at school and in the community. Generally, people talk about how much vision has been lost. The terms 'low vision' or 'blindness' may be used.

More information

In this topic:

On this site

Raising Children Network 

Better Health Channel 

There are many topics on the Victorian Government website Better Health Channel about vison impairment including:


What you can do

In the home

  • For serious vision impairment, attention to the placement of furniture is important.
  • Ensure that big or bulky furniture or furniture with sharp edges is not placed near regular walkways.
  • Families can develop helpful habits, for example, making sure that doors and drawers are not left open and that kitchen or dining chairs are pushed under tables.
  • For children who have low vision, you can make the home safer by checking that lighting is appropriate in every area.

General development 

Vision impairment may affect your child's general development. You may wish to be involved in or supported by an early intervention program that can help children and their families to encourage development in the following areas:

Motor skills

 Poor vision may decrease your baby's ability to explore in the important first twelve months of development. This may mean that it takes longer for a child to crawl or walk. Early intervention, occupational therapy or physiotherapy may be helpful.

Sensory development

This refers to the development of the senses of touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste.
Sometimes, a person who has vision impairment may be frightened by new experiences involving different textures or sounds. A person who has vision impairment may find it difficult to develop body awareness. Early intervention along with occupational therapy or physiotherapy can help this.

Communication and social skills

Many conversations begin when people make eye contact (look each other in the eye) or use some type of signal, such as a welcoming smile or a wave. People who have vision impairment may not always recognise our efforts to communicate with them because they may not be aware when we are looking, smiling or waving at them. People may need to work out ways of getting their attention by sound or touch.

Children who have vision impairment may also need help to learn the social skills that are expected during conversations. They may need to learn to "look" towards a speaker and when it is appropriate to enter a conversation. They may also need to be taught about the facial expressions or body postures that other people expect from them during a conversation.

Parents, teachers and friends can assist by using words in place of gestures. For example, it is important to say 'goodbye' rather than to wave, or to answer 'yes' rather than respond with a nod. Speech pathologists and specialist teachers can provide help with this.

Self-help skills

Children who have a vision impairment will not notice and copy what others are doing. Therefore, self-help skills may be slower to develop and may require specific teaching. Fine motor skills to manage buttons, laces and zips may need more practise. Early intervention, teachers, occupational therapists or physiotherapists can help with this.

Getting help

Specialist agencies for vision impairment, community health centres or hospitals may offer early intervention services, speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy services. Many specialist disability agencies and education departments will have early intervention or special education programs.

Preschool and school

At preschool or school, teachers will think about changes that need to be made to the environment and about programs to help your child. Changes may involve the types of books, games and equipment used. Teachers may also consider changes to the preschool or classroom furniture and where it is placed. Once at school, teachers will discuss any special needs for large print, special reading aids, orientation and mobility training, additional technology (such as braillers) and keyboard skills.

Depending on the needs of your child, teachers may get extra help in the preschool or classroom. They may also receive advice from visiting specialist teachers. Parents can help teachers by giving them all necessary and up-to-date information about their child's vision. This will aid teachers in choosing appropriate teaching methods.


South Australia

South Australian School for Vision Impaired

Can Do 4 Kids - provides a range of services, programs and activities to children and young adults up to 25 years of age who are blind/vision impaired, Deaf/hearing impaired, or deaf blind, and who may have additional disabilities.

Blind Welfare Association of SA


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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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