'Communication with parents and children about visual impairment: a parental and ophthalmological perspective

Gordon N Dutton,  Helen St Clair Tracy

 

Introduction

It goes without saying that pathology affected the visual system can impair vision.

This presentation addresses key issues to consider.

 

Background

The needs of the child come first:

Low vision and blindness are alternative states of normality for children.

Vision is needed to communicate, to access information and to guide movement (and to learn these skills) - all three domains need to be optimised. It’s our job to ensure this happens.

Parents need to be taught to understand exactly what their child can and cannot do, so they can best employ their child's can-do skills to learn everything they need to learn, all day and every day.

 

Methods

Ophthalmologists have three key communication roles, recognising we need to…

o Communicate compassionately and clearly to both the parents and the able child,  (verbally and in writing) about the child’s condition, it's impact upon the three above domains, and how each element is best managed.

o Give the key information needed to fully inform the parents, so they can parent skilfully and become their child’s advocates.

o Effectively and promptly give all key information in understandable format to all agencies responsible for ongoing care and education. (And if these agencies have limited skills, we need to teach them.)

 

Conclusion

Many children with low vision currently get a raw deal. Ophthalmic professions need to address this by leading structured team efforts. The new Scottish Visual Impairment Network for Children and Young People (VINCYP) provides a template to do this.