How Students with Low Vision Read and Write

If your child has low vision—that is, has an eye condition that interferes with the ability to perform daily activities—may read standard print or enlarged print, or may use one or several low vision devices, such as magnifiers, monoculars, telescopes, and video magnifiers to enhance the ability to read and write visually. These devices should always be prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist specializing in low vision, and your child will need systematic instruction in their use by the teacher of students with visual impairments.

Your child may also find any number of nonoptical devices helpful—including simple tools such as bold markers, dark-lined paper, book stands, or a high intensity lamp—as well as recorded books under some circumstances. He may also start using certain high-tech assistive technology, such as a computer with screen magnification software that enlarges the print and graphics on the computer’s screen.

Distance Vision in a Classroom

  • A low-vision device, such as a telescope, to read the material on the board or watch a classroom demonstration. They can also move closer to the material to see better.
  • The classroom teacher can provide your child with a copy of the material on the board. This could be a photocopied sheet of paper or one the teacher or teaching assistant writes out by copying the material on the board.
  • The teacher can read aloud what he or she is writing on the board.
  • If your child is using a computer, the teacher can provide an electronic file containing the material so your child can read it on their computer screen as anyone else would or by enlarging the text on the screen using screen-enlargement software.

As your child moves through the elementary grades, the size of the print in textbooks may get smaller, while the amount of reading and writing is expected to do gets larger. At different times, therefore, your child may need to utilize different reading methods or different tools to keep up with assigned classwork. For this reason, it’s important to review how your child is performing in various literacy tasks continually and make sure a learning media assessment is conducted every year.

How Large Should the Print Be for My Child?

For many children with low vision, using regular, standard print, with or without low vision devices such as handheld magnifiers and video magnifiers, may be preferable to using enlarged print.

Even if using large print may be efficient for your child now, it has certain disadvantages if it is the only method of reading.

  • Large print is not always available. When your child goes to a store, the price tags and menus will not be written in large print. Using a magnifier or other low-vision device to read standard print makes them more independent overall.
  • Some children feel uncomfortable using large-print books because they look different from classmates’ books and materials. Large-print materials often are also longer, bulkier, and more difficult to carry than standard-print materials.
  • Most college texts, workplace reading materials, and recreational reading materials will not be available in large print as your child progresses.

If a child with low vision becomes efficient in using standard-print books, with or without optical aids, the transition to college and the world of work will be easier. If your child’s TVI is recommending that they use large-print materials, it’s a good idea to verify that assessments actually indicate that this is the most efficient option for your child. A clinical low-vision specialist should also evaluate your child. Often well-meaning adults simply assume that a child needs large print rather than basing their decision on information collected from appropriate assessments.

Literacy at School for Dual Learners

How do you know if your child would benefit from learning both print and braille?

  • Speed: Children who can read print but slowly might find braille easier for lengthy tasks, like reading a book chapter. They can still use print for short tasks, such as math problems.
  • Visual Fatigue: If reading and writing in print tires your child, braille could allow them to access information with less fatigue.
  • Prognosis: If your child’s eye condition may worsen, starting braille early is wise. This way, if print becomes difficult or impossible, they’re already proficient in braille.
  • Learning Media Assessment: If your child’s TVI finds a significant gap between comprehension and actual reading ability in print, braille might be a good alternative.

If your child must learn braille after already reading print, the TVI will likely start slowly, introducing braille through enjoyable and practical activities. As your child develops braille skills, the teacher may incorporate it into specific classroom or homework tasks. As they gain proficiency, the TVI will guide them in choosing between print and braille. This decision will be based on which method is more efficient for each task.

There are a variety of ways for children with low vision to read and write. The important point is to find, with the help of the TVI and other professionals on your child’s educational team, the combination of methods and tools that work best for your child.